Pirates sweep opener

COSTA MESA — The depth chart is aptly named when a pair of would-be returning starters have been forced into backup roles.

That's the situation this season for the Orange Coast College women's volleyball team, which Coach Chuck Cutenese said might be the most athletic of the teams he has had in 20 seasons at the helm.

Balance is also a theme this season, which the Pirates displayed during a 25-11, 25-15, 25-14 trouncing of nonconference visitor Glendale Community College on Friday.

Five players had between four and seven kills on a night in which the hosts lashed 13 aces to overpower the Vaqueros.

"Probably one to 15, and one to 17 counting our two redshirts, this is one of the most athletic teams I've had," Cutenese said. "Clearly I've had some really good superstars, but this team, as a whole, is extremely athletic. We also have a lot of volleyball experience."

Cutenese said the Pirates have all the necessary ingredients to pursue the program's fourth state championship in the last seven seasons, the first since 2009.

"I sat down with [the players on Thursday] and I said 'I'm just going to put the two goals out there,' " Cutenese said. "Their goals are to win conference and go to state. Then, when we get to state, we'll talk about what we need to do. We've got the three ingredients. We've got the talent, the work ethic and the coaching experience. Now, we just need to put it all together."

OCC put together enough to dispatch the Vaqueros, guided by former Costa Mesa High boys' and girls' coach Yvette Ybarra, in just more than a hour.

Karlee Riggs, a 5-foot-9 freshman outside hitter, led the way with seven kills and six digs.

Dana Nicholson, a 5-3 outside hitter who Cutenese calls the team's spark plug, added four kills, as did 6-1 opposite Isabel Emrich.

Starting setter Allison Lumsden, a 5-10 freshman, had 20 assists in two games, while freshman libero Andi Frisina, the team's foremost leader, contributed nine digs.

Morgan Link, a 6-2 freshman middle blocker, had two of the team's three blocks and Cathleen Hopkins, the lone returning starter, contributed solid play.

Sophomores Rachel Thierjung, a 6-0 middle, and Katherine Wichner, a 5-7 hitter, had two and four kills, respectively. They figure to provide quality depth, along with sophomore backup setter Kehaulani Vegas and 5-11 freshman outside hitter Allie Grant (four kills).

Cutenese said diversity in the attack will help Lumsden consistently make good choices when distributing sets.

"I think Kimya Jafroudi [now at Alaska Anchorage after running the offense the last two seasons] is probably the best setter I've had," Cutenese said. "But Allison is doing things that I saw Kimya do as a freshman. I really like her athleticism and her knowledge of setting. She's learning the system quickly and she understands the game."

Cutenese said Irvine Valley, Golden West and Fullerton will provide strong challenges in the Orange Empire Conference. OCC, which was eliminated by Golden West in the Southern California Regionals last season to finish 16-5, opens conference play Sept. 30 at home against Saddleback.


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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