Corona del Mar Coach Darryl Gan stayed in his seat most of the match. So did the Sea Kings fans, without much reason to stand as the host Breakers finished off a 25-17, 25-22, 25-18 upset victory.
The Breakers (4-4), ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A coaches’ poll, took it to the Sea Kings (8-3), ranked No. 2 in Division II-AA. Laguna Beach looked sharp against its rival, starting fast behind the senior leadership of outside hitter Paulette Grand Pre. Grand Pre was playing her first full match after missing the start of the season with a back injury.
Tuesday night, she had five kills in the Breakers’ first 10 points. By then, Laguna Beach was up, 10-7, on its way to the easy Game 1 win.
After the match, she and the Breakers ate cupcakes to celebrate Grand Pre’s 17th birthday. During the match, she pounded out 16 kills, second only to teammate Chanel Stewart’s 17. Grand Pre also got to a team-high 15 digs, part of a Breakers defense that was solid throughout. Allison Palmer and Alex Rieckhoff each had six kills for Laguna Beach, with Palmer serving up 23 assists and Rieckhoff 22.
“Laguna is a good defensive team,” Gan said. “They served really well at us and their defense kept them in the match.”
Junior outside Hailey Senske had a team-high seven kills and seniors Sydney Brombal and Madie Smith added five for CdM, which stayed close throughout Game 2. CdM was ahead, 21-19, late in the game, after a block from Morgan Boukather and Claire Ham, then a kill from Sydney Brombal. But a kill from Grand Pre was followed by a big block from the Breakers’ Palmer and MacKenzie Hester, tying the score. Palmer then put away an overpass to give the Breakers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Allison played outstanding tonight,” Lance Stewart said. “She touched a lot of balls on the block and she dug a lot of balls. She ran our offense good and got the ball to our hitters in some good locations.”
Grand Pre said she wasn’t surprised at the result.
“I just thought we brought more energy than them and we were more consistent than [CdM],” she said. “Our passing was consistent and our hitting was consistent. We played good defense, I thought.”
It was the first time that Lance Stewart, who coached at CdM from 1992-95, has topped his former team in three tries since 2007. At times, he said this team at Laguna Beach actually reminds him of some of those old Sea Kings squads.
“We just weren’t real flashy,” he said. “We dug, we passed, and hit the ball in the court. It’s not rocket science.”
Laguna Beach had another big test when the Breakers played at Newport Harbor Thursday, after press time. The Breakers now open Orange Coast League play at Godinez at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.