LAKEWOOD — All has gone according to plan for the Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team in the first two rounds of the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA playoffs.
Coach Marissa Booker said she feels like the Sea Kings are getting better and better as a team.
Individual players are doing the same.
Senior outside hitter Grace Kennedy had 13 kills and a match-high 17 digs as CdM earned its second straight sweep. The Sea Kings dispatched Lakewood, 25-23, 25-17, 25-16, in a second-round match Thursday night.
"I think this is probably her best match all year," Booker said of the Stanford-bound Kennedy. "I'm pleased to see that she's peaking at this point. That's when you want your players to peak. She had a great match, defensively and hitting-wise."
Corona del Mar (27-6) will need more of the same Saturday, when the Sea Kings play host to No. 4-seeded Mater Dei in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal match. The Monarchs swept Huntington Beach in another second-round match Thursday.
CdM is 0-2 this year against Mater Dei. The Sea Kings were swept by the Monarchs in a nonleague match on the road Sept. 12. A month later, they lost to Mater Dei in a match at the Asics California Challenge tournament, in San Diego.
The Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings have not won a set in the two matches, but they look forward to another opportunity.
"I think we're going to be more ready this time," Kennedy said. "I think we're going to be more mentally prepared. For Mater Dei, it's more of a mental thing … I think since it's home court, it'll be good to have a crowd behind us this time also."
That was not the case Thursday night, and Lakewood (21-9), the second-place team out of the Moore League, almost stole the first set. CdM scored its first set point at 24-20, but the Lancers saved it when junior Alex Winfield blasted a kill off the side of CdM senior Madison Haly's face.
Haly was able to smile about it. The Sea Kings smiled less when two hitting errors brought Lakewood within 24-23, but a kill from sophomore Hayley Hodson finished off the set.
Hodson had six of her match-high 14 kills in the first set. Senior Brooke Dunning had five kills and three blocks, and senior middle Shannon Griffin also had three kills and three blocks.
Stanford-bound senior setter Kelsey Humphreys dished out 40 assists for CdM, which improved as the match went on. It was bad news for Lakewood and Coach Mike Wadley, who was trying to get the Lancers to the quarterfinals for the eighth time in his nine-year tenure.
Lakewood is young, with just two seniors – captains Tiffany Cobian and Heather Eggers – on the team. Sophomore Megan Kruidhof had a team-high 12 kills for Lakewood, but CdM was effective at accomplishing its goal of taking away the cross-court shot from the outside hitter.
"They're very good, very methodical," Wadley said of CdM. "They're very even-keel, not a lot of ups and downs. We had our opportunity in the first set. They were making mistakes, [but] we were making a lot of mistakes. We ended up missing four serves, three balls we hit out of bounds, two balls [Humphreys] dumped and we weren't ready for it. That's nine points."
Kennedy caught fire in the second set, recording six kills. The Sea Kings built a 5-1 advantage in the third set after two blocks from Dunning, and didn't relinquish the lead.
The Sea Kings know Mater Dei will be tougher. It is tough throughout the Division 1-AA playoffs; CdM moved up a division after making the Division 1-A title match last year.
"We're really excited to play Mater Dei," Booker said. "I mean, for me, I like to play great competition, and Mater Dei is great competition. That's what being in athletics is all about. Our team is very excited, and our coaching staff's excited as well."