COSTA MESA -- Two familiar foes will go at it with a berth in the state championship on the line as the Orange Coast College men's volleyball team takes on Irvine Valley College on Thursday night, beginning at 7 p.m. at Fullerton College in the semifinals of the California Community College Athletic Association State Men's Volleyball Championship Tournament.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the No. 2-seeded Pirates (19-2) and No.3-seeded Lasers (16-5), with OCC winning the first two matches. While it looks like a favorable matchup, Coast knows the dangers that lurk on the other side of the net. In the first meeting of the season at OCC, Coast swept the Lasers, but two of the three sets went right down to the wire.
In fact, Coast had to fight off three set points in the opener and trailed 19-11 in the third set before prevailing, 26-24, 25-18, 26-24.
The rematch at IVC saw OCC down 2-1 in sets and needed extra points in the fourth to simply make it to a fifth set. There, Coast trailed 13-6 and was just two points away from defeat before one of the biggest comebacks in OCC history took place.
With the Lasers at the top of their confidence level, OCC came out of a timeout and simply refused to lose, ripping off seven straight points to even the score at 13. IVC forced a match point at 14-13, only to see OCC go kill-kill-ace to end the match with an 18-25, 25-16, 19-25, 32-30, 16-14 win.
Coast is a perfect 19-0 with 15 sweeps this season to every team in the state NOT named Long Beach City College. Despite the lack of serious threats to the season (excluding the Vikings), OCC still has managed three five-set matches, where the Pirates are a perfect 3-0.
OCC has been led offensively by the 1-2 punch of freshman outside hitter Kyle McCauley and sophomore opposite Wyatt Henson. McCauley leads the Pirates with 199 kills to go along with 102 digs and 17 aces, while Henson has ripped 148 kills to go along with 54 digs and 48 total blocks.
But, the offense doesn't stop there for the defending state champions. Players like Zane Moothart (99 kills), Will Donald (86 kills, team-best 79 blocks), Bradley Hankus (75 kills, 60 blocks) and Clark Steele (65 kills, 29 blocks) give head coach Travis Turner several options on the offensive side of the court.
Sophomore setter and Orange Empire Conference MVP Colby Elder has dished out 476 assists to go along with 89 digs and 18 aces, while fellow setter Jacob Gilliam has contributed 243 assists, giving the Pirates several options on a two-setter attack.
Defensively, OCC has notched 726 digs and is led by Matthew Johnson (129).
For the Lasers, who eliminated El Camino College in the first round of the playoffs (25-19, 25-23, 25-19), they are led by sophomore Patrick Furlong, who leads the way with 233 kills. Close behind are Matt August (182 kills, 114 total blocks), Sean Carroll (171 kills), Brennan To (141 kills) and Trent Williams (123 kills).
The winner of Thursday's semifinal match will take on the winner of the other semifinal matchup between No. 1 Long Beach City (20-0) and L.A. Pierce (12-6) for the state title on Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. at Fullerton College.