Irvine Valley's women's volleyball team stayed undefeated and kept its match win streak alive Friday night with a thrilling, five-set victory over Cypress at home.
It took everything the Lasers had to pull off the triumph in what looked for a while like it might be IVC's first defeat since the end of the 2016 season.
Irvine Valley dropped the first two sets and was just three points away from being swept, but kept fighting in a 24-26, 21-25, 25-23, 25-13, 15-11 Orange Empire Conference win - the program's 39th straight victory.
The Lasers also improved their record to 12-0 overall and 8-0 in conference in 2018. No. 23 Cypress, which definitely had IVC on the ropes, saw its record slip to 10-7 overall and 5-3 in conference.
"Cypress put some pressure on us and I thought we were just quiet in the first two sets," Irvine Valley coach Tom Pestolesi said. "But we started communicating and came alive as the match went on. We just kept getting better and better, especially with our serving."
Cypress jumped out to a lead in the first set and then closed the set out by winning three of the final four points. Jane Woodward had a kill and then a block to give Cypress the opening set, 26-24.
The Chargers used a 7-2 run late in the second set, capped by an ace by Ashley Corona, to take a 19-14 lead. Irvine Valley couldn't get closer than three points the rest of the set. Marina Pilkington ended the set with a kill.
The Lasers began their comeback with a slate push in the third set. The set was tight throughout.
IVC led by as many as five points (18-13) only to see Cypress rally to take a 20-19 advantage after a net call. And Cypress led, 22-20 after a kill and then an ace by Kayla Owens.
But Irvine tied it at 22-22 after a kill by freshman middle blocker Kristin Austin and then an ace by sophomore defensive specialist Jade Parham. And the Lasers took the lead for good in the set at 23-22 after Cypress couldn't get the ball over on three.
A kill by freshman outside hitter Alaina Gendale made it a 24-22 lead for IVC. And two points later, Gendale got IVC on the board with a kill.
The Lasers rolled in the fourth set, racing out to a 16-7 advantage after a ace by freshman defensive specialist Anna Unke.
After a kill by freshman setter Truth Hafey, Irvine Valley was up, 20-10.
A Gendale kill shortly after gave Irvine Valley the set, 25-13, and leveled the score at two sets apiece.
Cypress took a 3-1 lead in the fifth and final set, but the Lasers scored three in a row, getting a kill by Austin, an ace by Hafey and a kill by sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Vortouni to go up, 4-3.
It was back and forth from there with two lead changes and five ties. The set was tied, 8-8, when Irvine valley took the lead for good. Sophomore middle blocker Kylie Miller had a block for a point and then Miller and Hafey combined for a block for another point to put IVC up, 10-8.
Cypress climbed to within 10-9, and, 12-11, but each time Irvine Valley had an answer. Kruse came through with a kill and then Vortuni had a kill off the Cypress block to give Irvine Valley a 13-11 advantage.
And Kruse wrapped up the match with two strong serves that Cypress couldn't return.
"Our serving was huge, especially from Jade (Parham) and Lea (Kruse)," Pestolesi said.
Parham and Kruse each ended with five aces and Hafey added three aces.
"And I thought Alyssa (Vortouni) played really big all match for us, but she really stepped up in the fifth set," Pestolesi said.
Vortouni, who had 16 kills on the night, recorded five in the final set. Vortouni added three blocks.
Kruse led Irvine Valley with 18 kills and also had nine digs.
Miller contributed eight kills and five blocks and Austin had six kills and two blocks.
Sophomore libero Renata Bath finished with 13 digs, Gendale had 12 digs and Hafey came through with a season-best 56 assists and recorded 12 digs.
Irvine Valley plays again next Wednesday, starting the second half of conference action at Saddleback with a 6 p.m. match.