COSTA MESA -- The ghosts of Orange Coast College men's volleyball past made their way into the Peterson Gym, but it was the ghosts of Pirates present who prevailed as Coast topped four-year powerhouse and Michigan-based Aquinas College with a pair of nonconference wins on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym.
The visiting Saints (19-3), which came in ranked No. 6 in the nation in the NAIA rankings, are coached by former Pirate standout Rick Schroeder and are featured with several former California Community College transfers, including the former Pirate trio of Colby Elder, Will Donald and Zane Moothart. All three played major roles in the nightcap, but in the end, the top community college in the state took care of business and handed the Saints a pair of hard-fought, four-set losses. In the opener, both teams' reserves took to the court and the Pirates won, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18, 25-21. In the second match, both teams sent out the starters and again, Coast came out on top with a 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23 win, improving to 12-0 for the season.
"It was great to see a lot of familiar faces tonight," OCC head coach Travis Turner said. "I have all the respect in the world for Aquinas College and I know Rick and his players will do a fantastic job. Colby and Zane and Will all played great for them and it was a special night to have them all come back to OCC. Hopefully we can do this again next year."
In the opener, Downey Huynh led the Pirates with 17 hills, while Garrett Halsey added 13 kills and Will Anderson notched seven hills and a team-best five block assists. Chaz Hafer dished out 27 assists, while Colby Cook notched a team-best 10 digs.
In the nightcap, Kyle McCauley came up big with 22 kills to go along with four digs, while Aiden Wolf-Nielsen added 11 kills and Clark Steele contributed eight kills. Setters Enzo Boggio and Jordan Rodriguez combined for 51 assists and nine digs, while Braden Neumann notched six digs.
For the Saints, the three former Pirates each posted big numbers as Moothart ripped 15 kills, Donald added eight kills and 5 block assists and Elder dished out 40 assists.
In the opening set, Coast maintained a slim lead throughout the match, only to see the Saints battle back and even things at 21. But McCauley made his presence felt with a kill and back-to-back aces to put OCC up, 24-21. The sophomore standout wrapped up the opening set two points later with another kill to give the Pirates the opening set.
An early 8-3 lead in the second set quickly gave way to an Aquinas run as the Saints grabbed a 19-17 advantage. But, kills by McCauley and Wolf-Nielsen and three self-inflicted errors by the Saints pushed the lead back to the Pirates at 22-20. Aquinas tied the set at 22, but a kill by Jack Flynn and a pair of return errors ended the set and gave Coast a 2-0 lead in the match.
Coast looked for the sweep and jumped out to a 14-11 lead in the third set, only to see Aquinas go on a 9-2 run to take a 20-16 advantage, led by the strong play of the former Coast trio of Donald, Moothart and Elder. The Pirates fought hard but could net back even and the Saints stayed alive with a 25-21 win, just the fifth set lost by the Pirates the entire season.
Another strong start by OCC put the Pirates up, 20-14, before a slew of errant hits and serves put the Saints back into the match, trailing only by a point at 23-22.
But the Pirates used a pair of kills by Flynn and did not allow Aquinas to get back even as OCC prevailed in the fourth set, 25-23.
Coast will return to action on Wednesday at Irvine Valley, beginning at 6 p.m. OCC's next home match will be on Friday against Golden West College, also at 6 p.m.