Laguna Beach played a near flawless set in the first-ever finals match with longtime rival Corona del Mar in Saturday’s CIF Division 2 championship at Cypress College, but were unable to sustain their momentum. The talented Corona del Mar squad (29-4) played to their potential and defeated the defending champion Breakers 23-25, 25-15, 25-14, 25-16.
CdM took an early 4-0 lead in the first set but the Breakers rallied back to chip away at the Sea King’s lead to tie the set at 21. After a brief deficit, Breakers scored the last two points for the win, stunning the large crowd to see a set loss. Robbie McKnight had seven kills with Austin Hillemann at four to lead the Laguna effort. Jack Winn had 14 assists, seven digs and a kill in the effort.
Breakers trailed 12-10 in set two before the Sea Kings took off, digging every Breaker attack and using their middles to block and kill to a 13-3 run to the finish. The advantage continued into the third set where Laguna never threatened with nine hitting errors and one serve receive shank.
The confident Sea Kings were on a roll to earn their seventh section title to tie Santa Ynez with the second most CIF titles behind Loyola’s 11. Breakers are tied for fourth with Mira Costa at six.
For the match, McKnight led the squad with 22 kills, while Austin Hillemann had the best hitting percentage with a .333 average and 13 kills. Alek Burk and Colin Ceithaml had five each. Burk had another strong defense performance with 11 digs and 20 serve receives. Troy Donenfeld took 27 serves and also added nine digs. Jack Winn dished out 43 set assists, two kills, and 13 digs.
Even with the loss, Laguna’s season is not over as the Breakers (20-11) advance to the enrollment-based state regional playoffs between the top teams from the Central, Los Angeles, Southern and San Diego sections. Laguna, the two-time defending champion, are the top seed. Corona del Mar plays in Division II, seeded second to Mater Dei, winners of the Southern Section D-I title. Southern Section divisions are based on league equity rather than enrollment.
Breakers open the state playoffs Tuesday, May 24, hosting El Segundo’s Vistamar (20-3). Laguna’s biggest threat comes Thursday, May 26, against the Southern Section’s D-III champs, Valley Christian (29-4). Next week’s matches begin at 7 p.m. at Dugger Gym. Finals are 3 p.m. Saturday at Irvine Valley College. San Diego’s Francis Parker is the # 2 seed.