Pirates, Lasers renew old rivalry at State Final Four

Pirates, Lasers renew old rivalry at State Final Four

COSTA MESA -- The rivalry is reignited as the Orange Coast College men's volleyball team takes on longtime rival Irvine Valley College on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the second of two semifinal matches at the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Volleyball State Championships, hosted by Fullerton College.

The top-seeded Pirates (22-0), champions of the Orange Empire Conference and the top seed in the tournament, will take on a Laser squad (14-7) seeded fourth and playing well following its four-set win over fifth-seeded Moorpark (25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 26-24).

But the solid play isn't only confined to the Lasers. The Pirates took on a Santa Barbara team that pushed OCC to five sets during the regular season and rolled past the Vaqueros, 25-15, 25-17, 25-12.

The Pirates are 2-0 this year against the Lasers, winning, 25-16, 25-20, 25-18 at IVC on March 13 and 25-20, 25-13, 25-21 on March 29 at OCC. But, when the Pirates and Lasers take the court, the records and past successes mean absolutely nothing.

"Irvine Valley is well coached, effective from the service line and very strong in the middle," OCC head coach Travis Turner said. "They played a very solid match in the regionals to beat a competitive Moorpark team.  We are definitely not taking this match lightly. It's going to come down to passing. Whichever team passes better will win this match."

The OCC arsenal was on full display against Santa Barbara last weekend and on Thursday, look for the same aggressive style to take place, with sophomore outside hitter Kyle McCauley leading the way with his team-best 175 kills. The offensive depth continues down the roster, with sophomores Jack Flynn (128 kills), Clark Steele (100 kills), Garrett Halsey (93 kills) and freshman Aiden Wolf-Nielsen (91 kills) providing several options to Pirate setters Enzo Boggio (390 assists) and Jordan Rodriguez (247 assists).

For the Lasers, sophomore Sean Carroll leads the offense with 176 kills, followed by the freshman foursome of Demetre Gossett (165 kills), Grant Marocchi (141 kills), Declan Holder (123 kills) and Tristan Belsby (120 kills). Setter Isaiah Powell has paced the Laser offense with 547 assists with Jimmy Wilson contributing 192 assists.

The OCC defense holds a 542-424 advantage in digs, with sophomore libero Braden Neumann leading the way with 119, followed by Flynn (80), McCauley (73) and Boggio (62). Carroll and Holder lead IVC with 58 digs each, with libero Red Ramos (55 digs) and Powell (56 digs) close behind.

The winner of Thursday's semifinal matchup will take on the winner of the Long Beach City/El Camino matchup for the state championship on Saturday at Fullerton College, beginning at 7 p.m. The Pirates are looking to win their eighth men's volleyball title in school history and the school's 93rd state championship.