In a match that could have lasted a lot longer, the Irvine Valley men's volleyball team fell in three tough sets to Orange Coast in a key Orange Empire Conference match at OCC on Friday night.
Orange Coast, which was ranked No. 2 in the state, moved into sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
Kyle McCauley ripped 22 kills to lead the Pirates (14-2, 4-0 in OEC) past the Lasers (11-3, 2-1), 26-24, 25-18, 26-24.
Wyatt Henson added six kills and three blocks, while Will Donald notched six kills and four blocks for OCC. Libero Matthew Johnson was solid all night with key serving to go along with a team-best 12 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Sean Carroll had 11 kills for the Lasers, while freshman outside hitter Trent Williams notched 10 kills for the Lasers. Freshman libero Kelsey Yogi had 13 digs and sophomore setter Austin McBain finished with 30 assists.
Irvine Valley came out strong and carried a 24-21 lead on the Pirates late in the opening set. But Johnson nearly single-handedly took over the match, using his knuckleball serve to stifle the passing attempts for the Lasers. Bradley Hankus notched a kill to make it 24-22 before a botched IVC passing exchange made it 24-23, forcing IVC to call timeout.
Johnson quickly went back after the timeout and served an ace to make even the set at 24. A Henson kill, assisted off a key Johnson dig, gave OCC the lead at 25-24 and the tandem of Donald and Zane Moothart came up with a big block to cap off the 5-0 run and secure the opening game for OCC.
Reeling from the stunning opening-set loss, IVC fell behind early in the second set as the Pirates went to work with big kills up and down the lineup. Four Henson kills helped spark a 14-8 run to start things off and the Pirates kept the Lasers at bay the rest of the way, giving the hosts a two-set lead in the match.
It looked like IVC was taking things over as a 13-4 Laser run gave the guests a 15-8 advantage. Several unforced errors by the Pirates helped put them in the hole, but Coast slowly began to chip away into the deficit.
Trailing 19-11, OCC used three kills from McCauley to spark a 6-1 run to trim the deficit to 20-17. A block by IVC freshman middle blocker Jonah Montes made it 21-17 but the Pirates had a first-set flashback, ripping off five straight points to take a 22-21 lead. Both teams traded points to even the set at 24 before a pair of IVC errors preserved the win for the Pirates.
Irvine Valley returns to action next week with two home matches. IVC hosts Fullerton in another important conference contest on Wednesday at 6 p.m. an then plays Palomar in a nonconference match on Friday at 5 p.m. at IVC.