Hayley Hodson looked forward to the Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team meeting on Monday. As one of five players expected to return next season, she said she thought Coach Marissa Booker was going to go over the team's off-season.
The team is losing a lot of talent, 13 players to graduation. What Hodson learned is that the team will be without its coach, too.
Hodson said Booker informed the team that she decided to step down as a walk-on coach to spend more time with her family. The only coach Hodson has played for at CdM is gone after two seasons.
"I was completely surprised," said Hodson, who earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors this season as a sophomore outside hitter. "She was a great coach. She really enjoyed working with girls at this age. You can tell she's had a lot of experience with women's volleyball. She focused on character building and important things off the court."
Under Booker, the Sea Kings also excelled on the court. They claimed two undefeated Pacific Coast League titles and made two deep runs in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Sea Kings finished short of playing for a second straight section championship, losing in the Division 1-AA semifinals at top-seeded Redondo Union last month. The team ended the year 28-7.
In her first season as a high school varsity coach, Booker led CdM to the Division 1-A title match and she earned the All-CIF Southern Section Division 1-A Coach of the Year award. Before her debut season, Booker said taking over the CdM program was a tough decision for her. She left her job as the women's volleyball coach at Vanguard University, her alma mater, to coach in high school and pursue a teaching job in special education.
After two seasons in which the Sea Kings went 60-12 with Booker in charge, Booker resigned.
"At this time, I have decided that I step away from the head coaching position at [CdM] so I can spend more time with my family," Booker said in a statement. "As I made the decision to resign, my focus was on the needs of my family and my desire to be more present with them. I have been involved with volleyball in some capacity (player, coach) for the past 17 years. It has been a tremendous challenge to maintain the delicate balance of career and family and I am looking forward to having more free time during the summer and fall months to spend with them.
"I am proud to have been part of such an outstanding school and I wish this program only the finest in future endeavors."
The search for a coach to replace Booker will start soon.
Hodson said Don Grable, the school's athletic director, told the team that in the next two weeks the school would start the application process. By February, Hodson added that Grable said the school should have a new coach in place.
Booker is the second straight girls' volleyball coach at CdM to stay at the school for a short time and leave because of family reasons. Booker replaced Darryl Gan, who left after three seasons in which he guided the Sea Kings to two section title appearances and three league crowns.
Both Booker and Gan, who have ties to Back Bay rival Newport Harbor, having each played for the Sailors, failed to bring a section title to CdM's storied program. The program last won a section championship eight years ago.