Coach connections in title match

November 18, 2006|By Dominic Perrone

Corona del Mar High and Laguna Beach girls' volleyball players have been intertwined for years, playing on the same club teams and competing for the same league title.

But the connection extends off the court, to the benches where the coaches have experience winning for a school that will be the opposition today.

The Sea Kings and Breakers will play for the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA championship at Cypress College at 1 p.m.


Corona del Mar Coach Bill Christiansen graduated from Laguna Beach where he was the school's first All-American in boys' volleyball.

"It was a lot of fun," Christiansen said. "That was the beginning of boys' volleyball."

He started his varsity coaching career with the Breakers' girls' team, advancing to the CIF Division I state quarterfinals in 1986. Christiansen, who still lives in Laguna Beach, took over the Sea Kings girls' varsity team in 2001 for Steve Conti after coaching the junior varsity teams.

"I feel totally at home at CdM," Christiansen said. "It's a fun camaraderie. It's a good social experience going back and playing Laguna Beach. It's a very friendly competition. There's a high level of wanting to win on both sides. Some of the players have friends on Laguna Beach and have played club volleyball with them.

"If we weren't in it, we'd be rooting for them. I'm glad they beat St. Lucy's [to advance to the final]."

Laguna Beach Coach Lance Stewart was a four-year varsity volleyball player for the Breakers where he was CIF player of the Year in 1981. He came to Corona del Mar and coached the girls' volleyball team that was named Mizuno-USA Today National Champions in 1992-93, beating the Breakers in the Division I state final and semifinal, the last time the two teams have met in the playoffs.

Stewart said he tried for the Laguna Beach position unsuccessfully before coming to Corona del Mar for three years.

"I still have some friends over there [at CdM]," Stewart said. "But I'm Laguna Beach all the way."

Stewart said despite the teams meeting for the eighth time in the playoffs, the fourth time in a final, it can't be categorized as a bitter rivalry.

Corona del Mar has won four of the matches, including two championships.

"I don't think you can have a bitter rivalry in high school," Stewart said. "It's just not healthy."

For the Sea Kings to have a healthy showing, it will take a steady dose of 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter Juliane Piggott. Senior Kelly Christian will switch between setter and hitter to give CdM's offense more flexibility.

"We have four girls that can set the ball at any one time," Christiansen said. "The important thing is that they support each other and they care about each other."

Trying to contain the Breakers' 6-0 junior outside hitter Dana Hutchinson will be middle blockers Kasey Kipp, 6-2, and Conely Kipp, 6-4, and defensive specialists Ashley Pries, Shannon Johnson, Tess Hodges, Madison Smith and Jamie Lawson.

Corona del Mar will also have to worry about Laguna Beach's 6-2 senior middle blocker Zoe Garrett, who is a member of the U.S. national team.

"I'm sure she'll get her blocks," Christiansen said. "But she has to move around because we have too many hitters. It should be a good game."

By reaching the section final both teams have earned CIF State Tournament berths.

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