IRVINE — The Corona del Mar High girls’ volleyball team went into Tuesday riding a 77-match winning streak in Pacific Coast League play.
It had been a while since the Sea Kings last dropped a league contest. The date was Oct. 21, 2008, and the site was Beckman.
Eight years later, the Sea Kings traveled to that same gym. Even though they won the first two sets, it seemed like they weren’t ahead.
The Sea Kings were in for a long night. Beckman roared back, winning the next two sets to force a decisive fifth set.
In Game 5, CdM scored seven of the first nine points. A strong start and serving propelled the Sea Kings past the Patriots, 25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 21-25, 15-7, keeping their winning ways in league intact.
“I could care less about streaks,” said CdM Coach Steve Astor, who was more concerned with how his team would respond at the end.
In a battle for first place in league, CdM (10-8, 4-0 in league) turned it on down the stretch against Beckman (17-8, 3-1), ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll.
Ashley Humphreys led the way, finishing with a career-high 30 kills, to go along with 35 assists, eight digs and four service aces. The junior recorded three of her aces in the fifth set, a set in which CdM had five aces, almost as many points as the hosts.
Brooke Cuthbertson produced CdM’s first ace in Game 5, breaking a 2-2 tie. Then after Beckman, down, 9-4, called a timeout, Humphreys had back-to-back aces, pretty much putting away the Patriots.
The Sea Kings faced a tough test, a couple of days after they returned from Chicago, where they competed in the prestigious ASICS Challenge at Mother McAuley. The Sea Kings placed seventh in the 24-team tournament, and Humphreys said their showing helped them outlast Beckman.
“I think in that tournament we really learned [how] to play as a team because that’s been something that’s kind of been a struggle,” Humphreys said. “I knew that it was going to be a super close [match with Beckman]. It kind of got away from us in those last few [sets], but we brought it together and played as a team to finish it.”
Closing out sets is what Beckman couldn’t do. In Game 2, the Patriots led, 21-19, after one of outside hitter Jill Schneggenburger’s 27 kills.
The rest of the way, CdM outscored Beckman, 6-1, to take a 2-0 lead in the match. During the run, Humphreys and Karly Recker (eight kills) had two kills apiece, and Recker teamed up with Blair Hodges for a block.
The Sea Kings needed one more set to complete the sweep. That wasn’t happening, as Schneggenburger and her older sister, Hannah, who had 11 kills, rallied the Patriots. They claimed Games 2 and 3, which also saw Bella Coates, Hannah Graves (six kills) and Sarah Thoerner play well.
“It showed a little something that we were able to fight back,” Beckman Coach Darin McBain said of Games 3 and 4. “But I guess we’re just not ready to knock them off.
“That goal of winning league is still there.”
The Sea Kings have owned the Pacific Coast League for the last 10 years, the last seven of which they have gone undefeated.
With one match left in the first part of league, at University on Thursday, CdM is almost halfway there to another perfect season in league.
Alexa Bonanno continued her all-around play for CdM, delivering 12 kills and 10 digs. Joanne Won and Tia Grippo had 15 and 13 digs, respectively.
Woodbridge is the other league team to challenge CdM, right before the Sea Kings’ trip to Chicago. The set with Woodbridge on Sept. 28 went four.
“Mixed results,” Astor said of CdM’s 2-3 showing in Chicago.
The team made it back home on Sunday. Astor gave his team a light practice on Monday to get it ready for the Patriots.
As for what he expected from the Sea Kings in their match with Beckman, Astor said he wasn’t sure.
Winning in league is something CdM can count on, as it has won 78 in row.