COSTA MESA — Like an aerodynamically challenged float serve, early season rankings can dip and dive, tailing with each new on-court tale.
On Wednesday, it was the Orange Coast College players' ability to make the ball move that figures to create upward mobility for the Pirates in the California community college women's volleyball rankings.
Coach Chuck Cutenese's Pirates, ranked No. 7 in the state, throttled No. 3-ranked Pasadena, 25-13, 25-23, 25-19, in a nonconference match at OCC.
Sophomore outside hitter Karlee Riggs blasted 25 kills and contributed eight digs to pace the winners (4-0), who have yet to drop a set this season.
Sophomore setter Allison Lumsden collected 33 assists, six digs, two aces and two kills. She was one of a handful of Pirates who kept Lancer passers off-balance by striking floaters hard from the service line.
"We work on that," Cutenese said of the dancing float serves that emulate a knuckleball's movement, but with a fastball's pace. "Dana [Nicholson, a 5-foot-3 sophomore outside hitter] did it last year and we've seen that it creates a lot of problems. So, we've got four or five girls who can do that and we're going to be spending more time doing it."
OCC, which had three aces, two service winners and just eight service errors, wasted little time shaking the visitors' psyche, scoring the first eight points of the match.
With Riggs topping Pasadena's cumulative kill total in the opening game, 6-5, the hosts led by as many as 13 before closing out a dominant opening set.
"I saw a difference in my team in the warmup," said Cutenese, who returns six starters from a team that went 17-5 in 2011. "The girls knew where Pasadena sat and the sophomores remembered losing to [the Lancers] in five games last year. We had very few errors in Game 1."
PCC (5-1), which had lost only one of 16 games this season coming in, held an 18-16 lead in the second set. But Riggs, who had six of her kills on bic plays (swinging from behind the 10-foot line in the center of the court), had kills to account for six of the Pirates' final 10 points to help set the stage for OCC's fourth straight sweep.
"We've been talking about this [match] since we knew we were going to play [Pasadena]," Riggs said. "We played cohesively as one unit and I think that was our biggest challenge going into the match."
Pasadena opened a 4-0 lead in the third set, but OCC pulled even at 9-9 and assumed a 12-11 lead on its way to finishing it out.
Riggs, who came in ranked No. 4 among Orange Empire Conference hitters in kills per set (4.13) had nine kills in the final game, providing a consistent go-to option for Lumsden.
"Last year, [Riggs, a first-team all-conference and All-Southern California performer as a freshman when she led the team in kills] was a little bit of a secret," Cutenese said. "If she's a secret now, then teams don't know anything about us. She's the real deal and a key player for us."
Lumsden stood out with more than her setting and serving. She made two remarkable reaction plays to keep rallies alive in Game 3. She darted from the back row to fish a ball out of the net that freshman middle blocker Kourtney Chadderdon deftly directed over the net to pull OCC within 6-4 in the third set. Six points later, she flicked the ball directed toward her left hip over the net by popping out her left hand as a quick-draw artist from the old West might. The rally ended with a Riggs kill.
"One of the things I always say about [Lumsden] is that she knows the game of volleyball," Cutenese said.
Chadderdon, who finished with seven kills, had five of those to account for half of the hosts' first 10 points of the match.
Sophomore libero Andi Frisina, a co-captain along with Riggs, also sparkled for the winners, producing a team-best 19 digs.
PCC Coach Tammy Silva credited OCC for keeping her team from playing to its potential.
"Orange Coast did a great job," Silva said. "[The Pirates] were aggressive when they needed to be and they got it done. "[Riggs] made some big plays, some big kills and they got some big kills from their middles and their back-row attack. We just couldn't get into a rhythm."
OCC opens conference play Sept. 28 at home against Fullerton.