The Irvine Valley women's volleyball team started slow, but finished with a flourish in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association SoCal Regional Playoffs on Tuesday night at home.
The top-ranked and undefeated Lasers had to battle back from deficits in the first and second sets, but still came out on top, 25-23, 25-21, 25-16 over No. 18 San Diego City.
Irvine Valley (24-0) moves on to the second round on Saturday at home and will face Orange Empire Conference rival Orange Coast at 6 p.m. The Pirates, seeded ninth, rallied and beat No. 8 Long Beach City in five sets (16-14 in the fifth) on Tuesday night in Long Beach.
Irvine Valley defeated Orange Coast in three sets twice this year in conference action.
The Lasers hadn't faced San Diego City yet this season, but got all they could handle, especially early on.
San Diego City led, 16-15, in the first set before Irvine Valley reeled off four points in a row to go up, 19-16.
The Lasers never trailed in the set after that. A kill by IVC sophomore outside hitter Lea Kruse made it 22-18 and the Lasers moved to set point at 24-21 on another kill by Kruse.
San Diego City won two points in a row to stay alive, but sophomore outside hitter Gabriela Griego's kill ended the set for Irvine Valley.
The Knights were up by as many as five points in the second set. A kill by Kareemah Hopkins gave San Diego City a 12-7 advantage.
Another kill by Hopkins later in the set gave San Diego City a 19-18 lead.
But the Lasers took over from there. Irvine Valley won seven of the next nine points to take the set.
Irvine Valley got three kills from Kruse and two kills from freshman middle blocker Paea Tafea, including the winner on set point.
Irvine Valley rolled in the third set.
It was close early with the set tied at 8, but Irvine Valley went on a 10-2 run to put the Knights away.
Back-to-back kills by Griego put Irvine Valley up, 17-10. And a kill by sophomore middle blocker Kristin Austin made it 18-10.
The Lasers took a 21-12 lead on consecutive kills by Austin and they reached match point at 24-14 on a kill by Kruse.
Irvine Valley ended the match three points later on a kill down the line by Griego.
Griego ended with 15 kills, Kruse had 14 kills and 10 digs and Austin added 13 kills.
Tafea and sophomore outside hitter Alaina Gendale each contributed six kills with Gendale also chipping in nine digs.
Unke led the team in digs with 27 and sophomore setter Truth Hafey ran the offense with 47 assists and added 14 digs.
San Diego City, which finished fourth in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference, closed out its year with a record of 15-11 overall.