When this season's volleyball schedule came out, Redondo Union coach Duncan Avery predictably circled the dates with rival and perennial Bay League favorite Mira Costa.
Upon closer inspection, Avery noticed that the first tilt with the Mustangs would come following a 14-day layoff that included the Sea Hawks spring break.
"That worried me; you never like to have that much time off," Avery said.
The Sea Hawks coach's preseason worries were justified as the nation's top-ranked team manhandled his veteran squad Thursday night.
More embarrassing was the fact that Mira Costa was without starters Jake Miller and Chris Orenic.
"This was a great opportunity for us tonight, and we did not take advantage. They are the No. 1 team in the country for a reason, and it shows us that right now we are at different levels," Avery said.
Mira Costa (16-0, 3-0) swept all three sets—25-21, 25-15 and 25-20—and proved that the Mustangs' grip on the Bay League is airtight.
"We played our worst match of the year by far. All the credit needs to go to Mira Costa though—they made us play bad," Avery said. "They put pressure on us, and we were not able to respond."
The Mustangs jumped out to a 7-0 run to begin the night before a Ryan Mather block settled the Sea Hawks (17-5, 2-1) down.
"We might have been a little too anxious," Mather said. "They are our rival, but we know we can play with them, and we're looking forward to next time."
Redondo would rally behind outside hitters Riley Theunissen and Trevor Butler, who would provide the bulk of the early offense for their team in climbing back to within three at 18-15.
"Our mental focus was lacking—we weren't ready for them—and it showed with our erratic serving and lots of errors," Theunissen said.
A thunderous spike from Theunissen pulled the score to 20-18, but the Sea Hawks got no closer with Mira Costa finishing on a 5-3 spurt.
"We had good practices all week, we have had some slow starts this year, and this was not how we wanted to come out at all," Theunissen said.
In the second set, Redondo would fall behind 6-2 early but rally to 7-6, forcing a Mira Costa timeout.
The Sea Hawks momentum would vanish as quickly as it came, however, with Redondo struggling with service errors as the defending Bay League champs went on a dominating 18-9 run, easily picking up their second set victory.
"We had 17 missed serves. You can't miss that many and win. We have talked all year about how we are going to live by the sword and die by the sword on our serve, and tonight we were completely out of rhythm," Avery said.
Redondo would not lie down in the third set after coming back from another 7-2 hole. A Theunissen kill and Butler touch shot to an open spot on the floor would bring the score to 19-15.
D.J. White and Zack Proctor knocked down kills for Mira Costa to widen the gap and hold on for the 25-20 win and sweep of their rivals.
Theunissen led Redondo with 11 kills and 8 digs followed by Ryan Olson's 10 kills and 8 digs. Mather added 6 kills to his team-best 5 blocks and Kevin Fender came up with 13 digs.
"All day I was looking at the clock, waiting to get going for this game," Mather said.
Mather and his Sea Hawks teammates will have to wait until May 3, when the Mustangs visit Redondo's gym for a rematch.
"Tonight was very disappointing, but I promise that we will play much differently at home," Avery said.