Barely two weeks into the girls' volleyball season and injuries are taking a toll among county standouts.
Foremost is outside hitter Lauren Warner of third-ranked Mater Dei. She had back surgery Saturday to repair a herniated disc and is out for the season.
Senior outside hitter Katie Beauregard, a teammate, said it won't be easy to replace Warner.
"She was such a leader, both on and off the court," Beauregard said. "She was definitely our go-to player and, obviously, a great volleyball player overall. We'll miss that."
Other key players out of action are outside hitters Sharon Shelton of defending Division III state champion Ocean View, Katie Keating of defending Division I state champion Marina and Natalie Snowden of Fountain Valley.
Shelton, who has orally committed to play at Santa Clara, continues to be plagued with a sore right shoulder. The third-ranked Seahawks have also been slowed while Kelly Jameson recovers from mononucleosis.
Keating, a returning starter, severely twisted her left ankle Friday while warming up at the David Mohs Memorial Tournament. Second-ranked Marina is also missing junior back row specialist Megan Harlow, who is recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Snowden, a four-year starter, has a sore right shoulder and might be limited to setting, according to her father, Neil Snowden.
The rash of injuries to highly touted players this early in the season is unusual.
"It's weird," said Beauregard, who will be expected to pick up the slack left by the loss of Warner. "It should change [rankings] a lot."
Corona del Mar tennis Coach Tim Mang is accustomed to welcoming transfers to his high-profile program, but last week he waved good bye to two of his top six players.
Sophomore Neeta Lal, who probably would have played singles and doubles, returned to St. Paul's Prep School in Maryland, where she spent her freshman year. Junior Jenny Meyer, one of the Sea Kings' best doubles players, transferred to rival Newport Harbor.
"This will make things a lot tighter in [the Sea View] league," Mang said. "It's probably a toss-up right now between us, Newport and Woodbridge."
The Sea Kings opened with close victories over sixth-ranked Dana Hills and fourth-ranked Mater Dei. The Monarchs' No. 1 singles player, Melissa Esmero, was nursing a sore left shoulder she injured during a lesson and said it was painful to sit out and watch her team's 11-7 loss.
"I wanted to play really bad, but I knew I might have torn something in the shoulder if I tried to play," she said. "The team kept reminding me that we could have won if I would have played."
It's a sore subject at Orange Lutheran. The Lancers are a Division XI school in football and despite dominating most larger public school opponents the past three years, when it comes to all-county selections, Coach Jim Kunau says his team has been overlooked.
It may be difficult to pass on running back Dee Meza, an exciting, slashing running back who is averaging 12.5 yards a carry.
"He cuts back very well and he's very elusive," Troy Coach John Turek said. "He's tough to defense because he has more speed than people give him credit for."
Meza gives credit to others.
"I guess I'm pretty good," Meza said. "But the front line does most of the work. The holes develop and I just run through them."
Santiago senior running back Jay Thomas, a two-year starter, rushed for a school-record 356 yards in the 45-30 victory over Santa Ana. Thomas scored five touchdowns, including one on an 80-yard gallop in the third quarter.
Thomas might have broken the county rushing record (422 yards, set by Heritage Christian's Paul McCaffrey last year), but had 85 yards nullified by penalties. His effort was still the seventh-best single-game total in county history.
"His total did not surprise me," Santiago Coach Ben Haley said. "We have a strong, senior dominated line blocking for him. And Jay is a very determined young man who will run over you or around you."
Dave McKibben and Mike Terry contributed to this report.