Morgan Boukather walked off the volleyball court with her Corona del Mar High teammates the same way she had the previous two years.
The season ended with another tough loss to Redlands East Valley. The past two times the Wildcats bounced the Sea Kings out of the CIF State Division II Regional playoffs.
It ended much earlier this time around for the Sea Kings, falling in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs. The prior two setbacks against the Wildcats, Boukather always had next year to get revenge.
The fifth straight postseason loss to the Wildcats stung Boukather the most. When she left the gym at Redlands East Valley last month after losing in four sets, Boukather knew next year did not exist.
Boukather's time was up at CdM.
"The bus ride home was not fun," said Boukather as it sunk in during the 64-mile trip that she will graduate from CdM without having beat Redlands East Valley in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-1 senior opposite left with her head up. Boukather gave the Sea Kings their best shot to win every time out. They won more often than they lost.
Boukather planned to get past the Wildcats and help CdM make a third straight section final appearance, a feat the program last achieved in the 1970s.
The Sea Kings were one match away from playing for the title again, much of it because of Boukather, the Daily Pilot's Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.
Coach Darryl Gan would know how much Boukather, a two-time Dream Team pick, meant to the Sea Kings. He took over at CdM in 2008, Boukather's first season on varsity. He has seen how fast Boukather developed in three seasons and how much the Sea Kings benefitted from her presence.
Gan is going to miss Boukather, who is going to Stanford to play on the women's volleyball team.
"She stepped up and she knew she was going to have to lead the team this year," Gan said of Boukather, who lifted the Sea Kings to back-to-back 10-0 Pacific Coast League championship seasons.
"The one thing about Morgan is that she is one of the most humble girls I have ever coached. It didn't matter that she was already going to Stanford, because she always came with the same attitude. She wanted to work hard."
Nothing kept Boukather from putting in the necessary work to turn into the Pacific Coast League MVP and earn first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I-A honors. Not even pneumonia got in her way.
Boukather, who produced a team-best 267 kills and finished with 90 digs and 51 service aces, said she came down with pneumonia toward the end of the regular season after ignoring a bad case of bronchitis. Every year during late October or early November, Boukather said she gets bronchitis.
The bronchitis turned into pneumonia at the beginning of November. The Sea Kings were days away from closing out the regular season against rival Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.
"It didn't affect me that much," Boukather said. "I kept playing. I was fine."
Boukather did not look 100%, but she battled through.
When the Sea Kings in the opening set fell behind Newport Harbor, 18-12, Boukather fed off her adrenaline. She recorded four of her 11 kills during a 13-3 run that closed out the first set in favor of CdM.
The Sea Kings were on their way to not only beating the Sailors for the first time in six years, but also sweeping them.