Seventh-seeded El Camino stuns No. 2 Irvine Valley College in four

Irvine Valley College
Irvine Valley College

CCCAA Quarterfinals
(7) El Camino 3, (2) Irvine Valley 1
(3) Long Beach 3, (6) Fullerton 0
(1) Orange Coast 3, (8) Grossmont 0
(4) Santa Monica 3, (5) L.A. Pierce 2

IRVINE, Calif. - Irvine Valley's men's volleyball team couldn't keep up with a spirited El Camino squad in a four-set loss that ended the Lasers' season in a CCCAA Championship Quarterfinal on Friday night at home.

El Camino, seeded seventh, upset No. 2 IVC, 25-21, 25-27, 25-21, 25-17.The Lasers, who beat the Warriors at IVC in four sets in the middle of March, ended the season with a record of 15-4. El Camino, which moves on to the semifinals of the state event next Thursday at LA Pierce College, improved its record to 11-7.

The Warriors jumped out to an early lead in the first set and then held on. Irvine Valley answered back in the second set, taking a 15-9 lead on a kill by freshman outside hitter Patrick Furlong. The Lasers later went up, 19-13, after an El Camino hitting error. But the Warriors rallied, scoring six straight points. An ace by Jaden Misaalefua tied the score at 19.

The set was tied at 21, 22 and 23. IVC went ahead, 24-23, on a net violation by El Camino. But a kill by Cesar Medina tied it again at 24-24. And then a tip winner by Misaalefua gave the Warriors a 25-24 advantage. Irvine Valley came back with the next three points, however.

Furlong had a kill to tie it at 25-25, Lopez knocked down a kill to give IVC set point and then a block by freshman middle blocker Matt August and freshman setter Austin McBain tied the sets up.

The third might have been the difference in the match. El Camino got up big, getting three straight kills by Christopher Phanngam to take a 18-11 lead. Irvine Valley climbed back. Down, 20-14, the Lasers scored seven points in a row. A kill by Lopez put IVC ahead, 21-20. He had four kills during the run.

But El Camino turned the tables on the Lasers and went on a 5-0 run of its own to end the set. After an IVC hitting error gave El Camino set point at 24-21, Medina's tip winner closed out the comeback and gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead in sets.

It was all El Camino in the fourth set. The set was tied at 3-3 early on, but the Warriors went on an 8-3 run to take control. The Warriors got up by as many as 11 points in the set at 20-9 and 22-11 before winning on an IVC serve into the net.

Irvine Valley still had a fine season, finishing second in the tough Orange Empire Conference and being ranked in the top three in the state all season. The Lasers were ranked No. 1 in the state for seven straight weeks and finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state.

The match was the final one as Lasers for sophomores Cody HermansonJosh Evers and Lopez.

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(1) ORANGE COAST 3, (8) GROSSMONT 0

COSTA MESA, Calif. - The Orange Coast College men's volleyball team will be returning to the State Final Four for the ninth time in 10 years with a four-set win over visiting Grossmont College on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Volleyball State Championships.

With the win, the top-seeded Pirates, (19-1), winners of 18 straight matches, will take on the winner of the L.A. Pierce/Santa Monica City College matchup, which also took place on Friday night. The state semifinals will be at L.A. Pierce College on Thursday, with a time to be determined. A win on Thursday will bring the Pirates back to the State Finals for the third time in five years.

"It was a nice win for us against a team that's much better than the last time we played them," OCC head coach Travis Turner said. "Our setters (Colby Elder and Jacob Gilliam) really did an outstanding job tonight. I think the key to our win tonight was we set the ball better than they did."

The combo of Elder and Gilliam combined for 46 assists with the majority of those helpers sent to the hitting duo of Jordan Hoppe (22 kills) and Justin Kam (18 kills).

"Those guys have really been outstanding for us," Turner said. "It's nice to have a big second weapon out there."

Steven Rodriguez had 16 kills for the eighth-seeded Griffins (6-11), who pushed the top-seeded Pirates past three sets, something that's happened only eight times this season.

With some strong serving from Grossmont setter Nicholas Calderon, Grossmont jumped out to an early 11-8 lead, forcing the Pirates into an early timeout.

From there, Coast turned on the jets and used an 8-1 run to grab the lead for good. A pair of kills from Matt Ujkic as well as put-aways by Hoppe and Kam helped turn the momentum back to the hosts.

Grossmont hung around  and trailed 21-16 before Coast ripped off the final four points to grab the opening set.

It was another big run midway through the second set which proved to be the difference for Coast. Leading, 11-9, OCC used another 8-1 run to pull away from the relentless Griffins. Kam had three kills during the outburst, while Hoppe added two, pushing the Pirates into a 2-0 lead in the match.

With the third set tied at three, the Pirates went into an all-around slump seldom seen in the Peterson Gym as Grossmont ripped off 11 of the next 12 points to lead, 14-4.

"I think the guys were looking ahead and we got distracted a bit," Turner said. "Once we got back to work, we were OK from there."

Coast pecked away at the deficit and got to within a pair at 22-20, but Grossmont used the big hitting of Rodriguez to win the third set and extend the match.

There would be no mid-set daydreaming for the Pirates in the fourth set as they jumped to an 18-9 advantage and never looked back. Fifteen of OCC's 25 points came off of kills as the aggressive play returned to the offense and the match went to the Pirates.

"As far as who we play on Thursday, each team has its obstacles," Turner said. "Santa Monica gave us our only loss so we know what they're all about and if LA Pierce wins, they'll have the home-court advantage so we need to bring our best game no matter who we play."

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(3) LONG BEACH CITY 3, (6) FULLERTON 0

LONG BEACH, Calif. - After hauling in a Western State Southern Division Conference Championship a handful of days prior, the No. 3-seeded Long Beach City College men's volleyball team hosted the No. 6-seeded Fullerton College Hornets in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) state playoffs. The Vikings pressed the gas pedal to the floor throughout the entire contest by completing a first-round sweep of the Hornets with set-scores reading 25-9, 25-20, and 25-21.

The Vikings jumped out to an early double-digit lead in that put them in a solid position for the remainder of the set. Freshman opposite Steven Rotter (La Palma, CA) got the Vikings on the board first with a kill that was assisted by sophomore setter Gary Trejo (Long Beach, CA). Sophomore middle Elai Mama (Moreno Valley, CA) followed with a kill, backed by a hammer from sophomore outside Travis O'Gorman (East Northport, NY) leading to a sizable 16-4 lead.

From then on, freshman outside Cyrus Fa'alogo (Salt Lake City, UT) took the reins and dominated. The freshman sensation recorded five kills down the stretch along with solid defense en route to a dominating 25-9 set win.

Long Beach remained tough in the second set with Fa'alogo taking control of the set early by recording five more kills leading to a quick 10-5 lead. However, the Hornets tied the set up at 14-all to force the Vikings' hand.

Nevertheless, the Vikings responded with nine unanswered points with two kills and a block by Fa'alogo leading to the 25-20 set win.

The third set was a back-and-forth affair early that had the set tied at six-all. Rotter rose up for two kills to give the Vikings their first lead of the set at 11-9. Fa'alogo extended that lead with a pair of kills leading to a 16-12 advantage.

Long Beach maintained the four-point advantage with kills from O'Gorman and Fa'alogo. Mama capped off the set with a kill to lead the Vikings to a set-victory and a match sweep.

The Vikings outplayed Fullerton in every aspect of the match due in part to the utter dominance of the Viking offense. At the helm was Fa'alogo with 18 kills on a whopping .600 hitting percentage. He had 25 attempts and made the most of them by only committing a mere trio of errors.

"The only thing I can say is teamwork," said Fa'alogo, who paces the Western State Division – South in almost every offensive category. "We worked really hard this week and we knew that we had to be better mentally."

Despite holding an 11-game winning streak, the Vikings have dropped some important sets against top-10 teams in recent contests. Fa'alogo expressed the important of honing in on your opponents – especially in a playoff atmosphere.

"We really worked on our connection and trusting each other. We need to stay consistent and not get too comfortable when we get big leads."

Head Coach Jonathon Charrette shared similar thoughts on the game as the Vikings look forward to the next round of playoffs.

"Our focus from this point moving forward is improving our relationships and improving our communication, becoming better teammates and a better unit come Thursday."

A handful of other Vikings chipped in on the offensive end with freshman middle Eli Garcia (Bellflower, CA) and Mama owning the middle for a combined seven blocks. Mama added seven kills as well.

Long Beach will travel to Pierce College on Thursday, April 27th for the semifinal matchup against the No. 7 El Camino College Warriors who defeated the No. 2 Irvine Valley College Lasers. The match is set for 5 p.m.


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