HUNTINGTON BEACH — A complete team effort sparked the Orange Coast College women's volleyball team to its biggest win of the season in its first true test Friday, in a 25-18, 25-21, 25-23 statement victory at Golden West College.
The Pirates' bounty for plundering the Rustlers in three straight games to finish off the first half of Orange Empire Conference play? OCC is all alone in first place atop the conference at 7-0 (13-0 overall), extending its streak of sets won to 20 that dates to Sept. 28 against Fullerton. The Pirates have dropped just two sets this season. They are ranked No. 2 in the state, with Golden West ranked seventh.
"We don't look at it that way," Orange Coast College head coach Chuck Cutenese said of whether he thought it was a statement win. "We just wanted to get better and come away with a win ... but it's huge. We knew this was going to be a big match. [The Pirates] knew this was going to be a big match. It was everything a crosstown rivalry's supposed to be."
OCC never really trailed for an extended period the entire match, riding Karlee Riggs for 23 kills, including six in the first set. A 14-5 run gave Orange Coast a 16-10 lead. Kourtney Chadderdon came up with one of her five blocks to put away a ball on game point for the 1-0 lead.
"They pushed us, we stepped up to that challenge," Cutenese said. "The nice thing is to play well and steal a win on their home court, put the pressure on them when they come to our place [Nov. 14 at OCC]."
With the Rustlers ahead, 12-11, in the third game, Riggs took over, pounding three straight kills to give her team a 14-12 lead it did not relinquish. Two more kills late in the game by Riggs sealed the deal, with Golden West hitter Alicia Utke's hit landing wide on match point. Utke had nine kills for the Rustlers (12-3, 6-1).
"I'm unbelievably happy with our whole team's success," Riggs said. "We have a lot of depth on our team, that's how we're able to win. They kept blocking me, so I went around the block."
Riggs and her confident teammates are setting their sights on a state title. No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Pierce College of Los Angeles returns half of its team from last season and appears as the favorite contender. There are seven more matches to go in the regular season, beginning with one on Wednesday at Fullerton.
"We are looking to go to state," Riggs said. "We have the [state championship] ring on the background of our phones. But it's one match at a time."
In a pretty wild second game, OCC's 7-1 run gave it a 16-10 lead. But Golden West struck back sharply, going on an 11-1 run to cut it to 20-18. Bethanie Boggs, who led the Rustlers with 12 kills, led the charge. But Allison Lumsden's block, a kill by Riggs that just landed within a few feet inbounds along the back row, and another hit put it away.
Offensive and defensive efforts were in plenty of supply, outside of Riggs' standout play. Sophomore opposite hitter Isabel Emrich came away with five kills, while Morgan Link and Leslie Stiner both had three. Lumsden, the setter, had 37 assists, while Andi Frisina had 18 digs and Dana Nicholson had 10.
"We had everyone contribute and do their own thing," Cutenese said.