Pirates handle Mesa

COSTA MESA — Streaky is not a word most coaches want to have associated with their team in the postseason.

But in the opening round of the California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern California Regional women's volleyball playoffs Tuesday, the host Orange Coast College Pirates made it work for them.

The No. 8-seeded Pirates (17-4) clearly posted the majority of the scoring streaks to claim a 25-13, 21-25, 25-21, 25-23 victory over No. 9-seeded San Diego Mesa (17-6).

The win puts OCC into the second round, in which it will visit top-seeded Los Angeles Pierce (28-0) on Saturday night at 6.

The Pirates upset Pierce, then the No. 1 seed, on the road in 2008. It will hope to pull off the same feat this season, its 13th straight in the playoffs. Pierce eliminated OCC from last year's regionals.

OCC seized a 9-1 lead to open Tuesday's match, then after a brief lull, closed the first game on a 12-2 run.

The Olympians, co-champions of the Pacific Coast Conference, answered by leading the entire second game.

OCC never trailed again, though it did survive a late Mesa comeback that tied the score twice late in Game 4.

"The thing I least liked about our performance tonight is, I thought we had strong starts and strong finishes, but we were weak in the middle part of the games," OCC Coach Chuck Cutenese said. "We tend to do that. It's something we've been working on and I was hoping , at this point in the season, we'd have it figured out."

Freshman Karlee Riggs, the state leader in kills, was difficult for the Olympians to figure out. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter had nine of her match-high 26 kills in the opening game. She has 356 kills this season and needs only 53 more to move into the No. 4 spot in OCC single-season history. She is 121 kills away from Kiwi Winkler's single-season school record.

But Riggs, who came in hitting .317, may have to make the most of her assault on the record book, since Cutenese said she may be moving on to a four-year school after this season.

"She was going to Cal State San Bernardino [out of Tustin High], but they recruited a couple other players at her position without letting her know, so she didn't think that was the right place for her," Cutenese said. "My job is to get her to the next level and if I can find the right place for her, then she might move on after this year."

Riggs also contributed 15 digs, one block assist and one ace.

The OCC attack also included nine kills from 5-3 freshman outside hitter Dana Nicholson and 6-2 freshman middle blocker Morgan Link. Cathleen Hopkins, a 5-9 sophomore outside hitter who was a first-team All-Orange Empire Conference pick as a freshman, chipped in eight kills.

Nicholson had 20 digs, while freshman libero Andi Frisina had 24 for the winners.

Allison Lumsden, a freshman setter, had 49 assists for OCC.

"The three things I really liked," Cutenese said, "were that we came out strong and fast in Game 1, we served extremely aggressively, and I thought our block touched a lot of balls."

Lumsden and Link had three block assists each and four Pirates had one ace serve.

The Pirates, who dropped two of their last three regular-season matches, both five-game setbacks, will try to maintain the momentum generated by Tuesday's win despite an interruption in training for Thanksgiving.

"We are practicing Friday night, which will give our girls time to return, because I have players who live in Palm Springs and San Diego," Cutenese said. "In the past, we [opened the playoffs] on the Tuesday [before Thanksgiving], then we didn't play again until the next Tuesday. But then they added a third regional, so they squished it all together."

The Pirates may need to squish more quality play in between those strong starts and finishes to advance to the regional final on Tuesday.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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