Handicapping the South Coast Conference volleyball race is child's play: There are three teams locked in a battle of king of the mountain, and another nine playing follow the leader.
Pierce College--which, along with Santa Barbara and SCC leader Orange Coast, already has clinched a berth in the state tournament--ran up against El Camino, one of the nine have-nots, Friday night and the outcome was predictable.
Pierce cleared its bench in rolling to a four-game win, 15-6, 15-10, 7-15, 15-8.
The Brahmas (17-2 overall and in SCC play), who defeated El Camino (9-11 overall and in the SCC) in three quick games earlier this season, appeared on their way to another sweep before Pierce Coach Ken Stanley inserted four reserves to start Game 3.
El Camino won that game in 19 minutes, and Stanley brought his starters back for Game 4.
Pierce, which has lost to only defending state champion Orange Coast and trails the Pirates by a game in the SCC standings, started slowly in Game 4 and trailed, 5-1, in the early going. But behind Ed Gilson's four kills and three stuff blocks, and Bill Cheesman's six kills, the Brahmas fought back to take an 8-7 lead and were never headed.
"We came off the bench a little flat, but we picked it up when we got into the flow of the (fourth) game," said setter Tyler Bates, a returning All-SCC performer.
Stanley was never worried about losing momentum--or the match.
"I have a lot of confidence in this team," he said. "When they need to do something, they do it."
Chad Blatchley led Pierce with 17 kills and Tony Zapata added 16. Gilson and Cheesman each finished with 15 kills.