CdM sweeps Laguna

LAGUNA BEACH — Steve Astor expects a frenzied atmosphere when he steps into the gym at Laguna Beach High.

As a former assistant volleyball coach with the Breakers, he speaks from experience. Astor, in his first year leading the CdM girls' program, figured that Thursday night's nonleague match on the road would be a good test for the Sea Kings.

CdM didn't give the Laguna fans too much opportunity to get rowdy. Instead, the mood stayed pretty calm. The national anthem was played by a kid with a saxophone.

It was the Sea Kings who provided nothing but the hits. Junior co-captain Hayley Hodson provided 21 kills to be exact as CdM swept the match, 25-21, 25-13, 25-21.

Consider it another test passed for Corona del Mar (6-2), ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA. The Sea Kings have no matches until the Battle of the Bay, which is at Newport Harbor on Sept. 28.

"It's kind of perfect preparation for the Battle of the Bay," Astor said. "That's going to be like this on steroids, in terms of fans and stuff. I think we handled it pretty well [tonight], so that's a good sign for us."

Another good sign has been the consistent leadership of CdM's other co-captain, senior Jules Pouch. She continues to play outside hitter instead of opposite as the team is without junior Katie Craig (concussion).

Pouch had 10 kills Thursday, helping the young CdM squad pull away at the end of the first and third sets for the sweep.

"I definitely think that we're consistent," Pouch said. "When our level of energy's not there, I know that we can pull through with a constant nice level of play. We work well together, so we don't really get mad. Frustrated, sometimes, but we pull out of it."

Craig still was able to sit on the bench and cheer for her teammates. One player who wasn't there for Laguna Beach (5-4), ranked No. 10 in Division 1-A, was junior outside hitter Alyse Wallace-Ford.

Breakers Coach Raul Papaleo said that Wallace-Ford, who was leading Laguna in kills for the season, quit the team on Monday following the Dave Mohs tournament.

"This is our first match without her," Papaleo said. "We have a great group of girls. We're young, and we're going to be really good. But when you have a player like that doing 60, 70% of your offense, we had to make some adjustments. I put two girls in that spot, and they did OK at times, but "at times" doesn't get the job done sometimes.

"We need to be consistent during the whole match, and [Corona del Mar] played well. Hayley Hodson can control the game from the back row and the front row. We knew that, and we were going to try to limit her options, but she's a great leader."

Junior Sabrina Stillwell led the Breakers with 10 kills and three service aces. Laguna's players packed up after the match before hopping in a couple of vans for Las Vegas, where they are playing in the Durango Fall Classic this weekend.

Astor said that his team's extended practice time before Battle of the Bay is good. He would like to see the Sea Kings, ranked No. 11 in the state by CalHiSports, improve on their transition play.

Sophomore Jessie Harris had 25 assists Thursday and junior Paige Migliori added 23 helpers for the Sea Kings, who were tied in the first set as late as 19-19. They pulled away, despite five Laguna aces in the set.

Junior middle blocker Samantha Jones had four kills in the second set, which CdM won easily. And sophomore middle blocker Natalia Bruening added a pair of kills late in the third set, including the one to clinch the match for the Sea Kings.

"Our middles have come a long way already," Astor said. "They need to keep coming a long way, but I'm really happy with their progress. They're certainly heading in the right direction. They're both very new to the varsity level, which especially in that position is extremely tough. They're catching up to the speed of the game, and that's going to be huge for us, to be balanced and not rely on one person so much."

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