COSTA MESA, Calif. - While it is true the Orange Coast College men's volleyball team swept its two matches with Fullerton College, it's a rather safe bet that the Pirates would rather face a different opponent once the postseason gets underway.
For the second time this season, the Pirates were pushed to the brink of defeat by the Hornets, but managed to overcome a strong effort by their opponents and post a five-set win. On Friday night, Kyle McCauley knocked down 22 kills to lead the way to a 25-10, 23-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-5 win for OCC (16-2, 6-0 in Orange Empire Conference).
Setter Colby Elder had one of his best all-around matches of the season and dished out 53 assists to go along with 10 digs. Middle blocker Bradley Hankus helped lead the way on defense with 8 block assists to go along with nine kills on only 12 attempts with no errors.
And, adding to the depth to the Pirates' offense, Zane Moothart came up with 15 kills from the right side as the Pirates earned at least a share of the OEC title with just two matches remaining.
For the Hornets (11-6, 5-2), Javier Zavala and Kevin Poku each had 10 kills.
In the opening set, the Pirates were firing on all cylinders and jumped out to a 19-6 lead, leaving the Hornets in the dust early on in the match en route to an easy win.
Coast came out flat early in the second set as Fullerton regrouped from the blowout loss in the opener to jump out to a 12-4 lead as Poku inspired his team with two kills, a block and an ace, while Kyle Young notched back-to-back solo blocks during that run.
Fullerton never relinquished the lead despite a late charge by the Pirates, cutting the deficit to one at 24-23. But a long serve by the Pirates gave the Hornets the 25th-and-final point, evening the match at a set apiece.
Coast looked like it had things under control in the third set, leading 19-14, but Fullerton used three straight hitting errors to climb back into the match and trail by only one at 19-18.
A McCauley kill made it 20-18 after an OCC timeout, but Fullerton responded with a 6-1 run to grab the lead away from the hosts. After Coast again pulled to within a point at 24-23, Zavala slammed up the winner, putting Fullerton up 2-1 in the match.
Needing to win to stay alive in the match, Coast came out swinging in the fourth set and jumped out to a 19-12 lead and never looked back. Fullerton cut the score to 20-16 before the Pirates responded with five straight points to end the fourth set and force a winner-take-all fifth-set to decide the match.
In that 15-point final set, it was ALL Orange Coast as the Pirates ripped off the first five points and the Hornets could never get back into it. Two kills by Will Donald, a pair of kills by Wyatt Henson and put-aways by McCauley and Hankus led the way for Coast in the final set as the Pirates finished off the match in just under two hours.
OCC will play at Irvine Valley on Wednesday night (6 p.m.) before ending the regular season at home against Santiago Canyon, also at 6 p.m.
(Courtesy Orange Coast Athletics)