Pirates' plan set in place

COSTA MESA — The architect of the blueprint for community college men's volleyball success watched almost helplessly as his team's house crumbled Friday night.

Long Beach City College Coach Randy Totorp had, in effect, created the human hurricane that swirled on the other side of the net during the nonconference match at Orange Coast College.

"What's funny is, we have kind of followed the model of what [Totorp] has done," OCC head man Travis Turner said after the Pirates' 25-17, 25-17, 25-23 triumph to up his team's record to 4-0. "When he was winning all those state championships [2004, 2006 and 2009], he was getting players for three years and playing with older guys."

The formula calls for stockpiling the surplus talent produced by high school and club programs, mostly in Southern California, that because of decreasing scholarship opportunities at four-year schools, are eager to keep playing.

With rosters swelled to 30 players, community colleges then redshirt players for one developmental season, in effect, creating their own farm system for experienced talent. One might say it's as much about gestation as matriculation.

"We only have one true freshman playing on the court for us," said Turner, whose veteran squad appears to be driven to avenge a loss to Moorpark in last year's state championship final.

What the Pirates do put on the court is a tall, talented and balanced band of veterans who have proved too much for their first four opponents this season.

Long Beach (1-2) was clearly overmatched, despite three returning starters from a 16-2 squad that was upset by OCC in last year's state semifinals.

"We can set all five guys and we haven't had that here since I've been here," said Turner, in his fifth season at the helm.

Sophomore setter James Anderson, a bounce-back from Cal Baptist who redshirted last season, doled out 36 assists to six different hitters. By the time OCC had scored 19 points, it had received kills from seven different players, including Anderson.

McKay Smith, a transfer from Long Beach State, finished with 12 kills to lead the way, while sophomore returner Jeff Patton (eight), freshman Chris Pratt, another redshirt, (eight) and sophomore returner Troy Tomasello (seven) were additional weapons.

Freshman libero Danny Baker, out of Corona del Mar High, had a team-best 10 digs, while Turner also praised sophomore middle blocker Richard De St. Jean, a Newport Harbor High product, who chipped in three kills and was in on three blocks.

"He did a great job," Turner said of De St. Jean, who at 6-foot-3 is the smallest of the starters that comprise the outside hitter, opposite and middle blocker positions. "He is just as solid as can be and he does a lot of things you just don't see.

"We've got some athletes," Turner said of a lineup that includes Patton (6-7), Tomasello and Smith (6-6) and Pratt (6-5). In addition, freshman contributor Johl Awerkamp, who redshirted last season and will play at UC Irvine in 2012, Turner said, is a 6-7 opposite. "And it's a good, tough group of kids."

Turner said his players' ability to compete is their biggest attribute thus far.

"Our volleyball is a little suspect right now," Turner said. "I know that sounds crazy after [the three-game sweep], but we've got to play better volleyball. Competing-wise, though, we might be one of the tougher teams I've had."

That feisty side surfaced in Game 3, when officials tried to tone down some talking under the net that appeared to fire up both squads.

"It did get a little personal," Turner said. "I got a little upset with my guys, because I thought that was what [the Vikings] wanted. They wanted to take away from volleyball because, obviously, we were outplaying them. We got caught up in it a little, but we refocused and got back into [the match].

Long Beach led, 18-16 in the final game, in which the score was deadlocked at 18, 19, 21 and 22.

Smith gave OCC a 23-22 edge with an overpass kill, then teamed with Tomasello for a block to create match point.

A Long Beach kill produced a point, but Smith put away a quick set from Anderson to complete the sweep.

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