Undefeated and No. 1 South seed Irvine Valley had the ultimate test in the CCCAA State Women's Volleyball Semifinals Saturday night and passed barely - just enough to score a five-set triumph over No. 3 Canyons, 25-19, 13-25, 28-26, 23-25, 16-14.
The Lasers reach the state final to face North No. 3 San Joaquin Delta on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Lasers improved to 26-0 in beating the Cougars (25-6) for the second time this season. The teams have been part of a storied postseason rivalry that included a regional playoff win by Canyons that ended a 22-0 Irvine Valley season in 2007. Irvine Valley downed Canyons in the regionals in 2014 to advance and win the state crown that year.
In the fifth set, Canyons faced double match point but tied it at 14-14 on a kill by All-State hitter Emily Burns. Freshman outside hitter Alyssa Vortouni and sophomore outside hitter Taira Ka'awaloa answered for the Lasers with kills to cap the marathon victory.
Irvine Valley received another stalwart effort by its dynamic hitting duo of Ka'awaloa with 25 kills (66 attempts) and 12 digs and sophomore outside hitter Olivia Aguilar, who powered 26 kills (64 attempts) with 18 digs. Vortouni came up big late in the match and finished with 10 kills.
Sophomore setter Megan Remseyer set 56 assists and added 14 digs and sophomore libero Gabi Lau defended well on 27 digs.
For COC, Burns totaled 18 kills and eight blocks (one solo), Shayla Johnson recorded 15 kills and 15 digs, Caroline Page had 14 kills and 12 digs, and libero Demi Dawson made 28 digs and tied for the third highest ace total in a state tourney match with seven.
"Alyssa stepped up and had her best match of the year, making some really huge kills in that fifth set," said IVC coach Tom Pestolesi. "We really have had some great matches over the years with Canyons. But what makes them great is that it's a classy program with quality coaches like Lisa Hooper and now Clay (Timmons). When we play them, it's all about volleyball, nothing else. It's a bummer someone had to lose."
Timmons talked about the matchup.
"If you are going to lose, that's about as fun a way as you can do it, go to extra points in the fifth set against the state's top ranked team," he said. "We really liked how we matched up against them and we felt we were able to at least slow up their hitters. Some points at the end might have gone the other way but we had a few miscommunications. Still, we played really well against a well-coached team. I'm proud of our efforts."
In the final set, IVC had its best hitting set with a .310 percentage and 11 kills. Both of the state semifinals went five sets. The day started at 9 a.m. and didn't come to an end until after 10:30 p.m. at the Solano College gym.
Release by Robert Lewis, for CCCWVCA/CCCAA