OCC at least co-champ

HUNTINGTON BEACH — The Orange Coast College men's volleyball team closed out the regular season with a four-game triumph at Golden West that was scant on suspense.

But after a 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-23 victory that clinched at least a share of the Pacific Coast Conference championship, the next three days appear to be filled with more than a little drama for Coach Travis Turner's Pirates (16-2, 11-1 in conference).

Grossmont (14-3, 10-1 entering Friday's regular-season finale at Irvine Valley), would share the crown with a win against the Lasers.

But determining the conference's top playoff representative, which would also get a bye into the state semifinals, is anything but clear.

Turner said the state coaches' assn. voted before the season to change the second step in the head-to-head tiebreaker criteria (after head-to-head matches, in which OCC and Grossmont split) from overall record to games won in head-to-head competition. But, notification of the change was not sent to state athletic directors, or the state governing body, Turner said.

So, there could be some controversy about which tie-breaker to use. OCC would have the edge under last year's tie-breaker, as it has a superior overall record. But should the change be recognized, Grossmont had an edge, having a 5-4 advantage on games against the Pirates.

"There's a discrepancy and it's going to be a problem," said Turner, who said a meeting Saturday will sort things out and create the six-team bracket. The No. 1 representatives from two conferences will get a bye and advance to the semifinals, Wednesday at OCC.

The No. 2 and No. 3 teams from each conference will play Monday in quarterfinal clashes on the No. 2 teams' home floor.

The state final, in which OCC was upset last season by Moorpark at OCC, is scheduled for April 22, also at OCC.

The Pirates had very few problems dispatching the Rustlers (9-8, 5-6), though Turner acknowledged it was a tougher match than the first meeting, an OCC sweep on March 18.

The Pirates used superior balance, blocking, defense and setting to extend their winning streak to nine matches.

Freshman middle blocker McKay Smith led the winners with 10 kills and shared the team lead with five block assists. Six Pirates had between four and nine kills, as sophomore setter James Anderson was very diplomatic in dispensing 40 assists.

"Balance is the key thing," Turner said. "We've had years when we had one guy take 50 swings a night. Now, we have five guys who get 20 swings a night."

Freshman Chris Pratt had nine kills, while sophomore Troy Tomasello added eight and sophomore middle Richard De St. Jean chipped in seven. De St. Jean, a Newport Harbor High product, also had five block assists. OCC had 11 team blocks to four for the Rustlers and the visitors closed out the match on a block by Smith and Anderson.

Freshman Chris Van Vuuren had six kills, while sophomore Jeff Patton had five and freshman Johl Awerkamp had four.

Freshman P.J. Stack came off the bench to contribute two aces, while Patton and Awerkamp had one ace each.

Golden West, for which freshman middle blocker Po'Okela Pangelinan had a team-high nine kills, scored first in every game.

Neither team led by more than four, until OCC pulled away in Game 3, using a 13-2 run to take an 18-7 lead, then cruising to the finish of the most lopsided of the four games.

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