Coach Ricardo doMonte stayed in bed sick for the last three days. With doMonte out, his assistant coach, Miles Evans, ran the boys' volleyball practices at Estancia High.
By Thursday, doMonte's health improved, enough for him to get out of bed and lead his Eagles. He also happened to face his former team, Costa Mesa, on the road.
The road to recovery for doMonte's current team has had its share of setbacks. The Eagles are winless this season in 10 matches.
The Eagles dropped all their matches last season. Their losing ways continued at Costa Mesa, which opened Orange Coast League play with a 25-15, 25-21, 25-20 sweep.
The Mustangs and Eagles are both in rebuilding mode, but Costa Mesa showed its program is a tad ahead. The first match in the Battle for the Bell rivalry series easily went to the Mustangs (4-5, 1-0 in league).
Mason Tufuga led Costa Mesa with 10 kills, his 6-foot-2 size and left-handed swing proved to be too much for the Eagles. The visitors saw enough of Tufuga and the Mustangs.
Costa Mesa and Estancia played for the second time in six days. Their first meeting took place at the Orange County Championships on Saturday. The Eagles played host to the Division 2 contest, yet Costa Mesa swept the best-of-three match, 25-18, 25-18.
"We got a good look at them on Saturday, when we played in the tournament, which was a tough tournament," said Costa Mesa Coach Todd Hanson, whose team's lone win during the two-day tournament came against Estancia. "You look at that whole tournament, and I think Estancia and us were the only ones who didn't have 13 or more guys on their roster. We had eight [players] that day because we were missing a couple of guys, and they had like eight or nine sitting there. It was a great test for us to prepare us for league."
Hanson, in his first season at Costa Mesa, isn't a big fan of playing a league opponent before league starts. He prefers to scout league teams beforehand, not wanting to show what his team is capable of on the court.
What Hanson has is a better team than Estancia, which hasn't won a set this season.
The Mustangs' size, with 6-1 middle blockers Carlos Vallejo and Joseph Saucedo, created problems for the Eagles. Vallejo finished with three blocks and Saucedo contributed five kills.
"They have more experience," doMonte said of the Mustangs, who under him last season placed fifth in league, picking up their only two wins against last-place Estancia. "I [have a couple of] returners [in outside hitter Kaena McReynolds and setter Riley Brockman], but I still feel like they're a little tentative. I'm trying to build that confidence that I gave to these guys [at Costa Mesa] last year.
"It's always fun, you know, facing … players from the past. We have a good relationship. All the kids treat me really well and with respect. They even felt a little nervous, you know, by coming to play against me this year. They're doing a good job. They learned well last year. The new coach is doing a great job and they improved a lot, some of them got really stronger."