No player has ever reached the level that Irvine Valley sophomore outside hitter Olivia Aguilar achieved Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-1 sophomore delivered a state championship final match record 30 kills as she rallied the Lasers from a set down to capture the 2017 CCCAA State Women's Volleyball title in defeating San Joaquin Delta, 23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-16, at Solano College in Fairfield.
In the process, her hitting helped Irvine Valley complete a perfect season at 27-0.
The Lasers and Mustangs (25-5) reached the final by both making it through five-set semifinal victories on Saturday night.
IVC led, 10-5, in the first set but Delta fought back and eventually took a 16-15 lead. Amilya Thompson pounded her eighth kill for set point and a 1-0 Mustangs lead. While Delta and the partisan North region crowd got excited, Aguilar, who had seven kills in the first set, had other plans in mind than watching her team lose another set.
It sounded like a broken record on the public address microphone as "kill by Aguilar" was called out frequently at the start of the second set. She knocked down four kills on four consecutive plays assisted by sophomore setter Megan Ramseyer for an 11-3 IVC lead. In all, Aguilar, from El Toro High, scored a ridiculous 10 kills in 21 attempts in a 9-point game win that tied the match at 1-1. The tide had turned.
In the third set, Delta responded to take an 11-7 lead, but Aguilar again started peppering the Delta defense with powerful swings, landing four kills in a 9-5 run. The Lasers went ahead, 20-19, on an ace by sophomore libero Gabi Lau. Two more Aguilar kills and an assisted block gave IVC the game at 25-20 and a 2-1 sets lead. In the fourth set, Delta had seen enough and faded in a series of attack errors and other mistakes. Irvine Valley went on an 8-2 run to close out its second state title in four years, and the first by a Southern California region team since 2014.
"We felt pretty good about ourselves after that first set, and then Aguilar just took over the match pretty much single-handedly," said Delta coach Molly Mordaunt-Hummel. "We just couldn't defend their outsides even though we tried. In all, I can't be anything but happy because our goal was to just make it to state. We took a set from an undefeated team and we beat a great Cabrillo team in the semis. That's pretty special."
Aguilar talked about her team keeping things together after losing the opening set.
"I think the Canyons match helped us from the night before," she said. "So we didn't let being behind bother us. We just went about making sure we play our type of game, and that if we did, we would come out on top. I also want to thank our trainers for helping me with treatment and getting me through the tournament."
Aguilar had played the past month with tendonitis in her right swing arm, but you wouldn't have known it from her finals performance. The tourney MVP hit .348 overall and totaled a tourney-high 69 attacks with six errors. She added 10 digs, two aces, and three blocks.
All-tourney selection Taira Ka'awaloa, a sophomore outside hitter, added 15 kills. The All-American Ramseyer dished out 49 assists with 12 digs and two aces. Lau totaled 30 digs, the most by any player in the state tourney since 2009.
"Even if I didn't get a good pass, it didn't matter because no matter where I set it, our outsides would get the kill," all-tourney setter Ramseyer said. "This was just such a great unit, where everyone did their jobs with no drama."
For Delta, all-tourney outside hitter Thompson totaled 19 kills, All-tourney outside hitter Kylie Irwin-Paz had 11 kills, all-tourney setter Mika Fithian added 38 assists and 16 digs, and Kelly Markham had six kills and five block assists.
IVC head coach Tom Pestolesi said: "We've lost the first set in a couple of matches this year, but our team just never panicked. Olivia picked the right match to have a career high in kills. We have such a great assistant coaching staff and the players always made the right adjustments after receiving instruction on the side. One of our assistants, Ryan Windisch, would say before each match, 'win the day.' Right before the final, he said, 'win the season.' And today we did it."
The previous high in a state final match for kills was 27 by Long Beach City's Juliana Guimares in 2000 (a losing effort but the last tourney MVP from a non-champion). The high for kills in a state tourney match remains with Kiwi Winkler of Orange Coast, who had 33 in a 2006 game v. Delta.
Delta matches its best finish at state with its second place, the third time it has achieved the standing, also doing it in 2002 and 2005.
Irvine Valley is the first undefeated state champion since...itself in 2014 when it also finished perfect at 27-0.
Release by Robert Lewis, for CCCWVCA/CCCAA