Pirates handle Lasers

ORANGE — Upsets had been trending at the California Community College Athletic Assn. men's volleyball state championship, but heavily favored Orange Coast College upset that run by sweeping Irvine Valley in the semifinals at Santiago Canyon Community College.

"Thank God it wasn't a trend," OCC Coach Travis Turner said after his squad (19-1) dispatched IVC, 25-20, 25-18, 25-20, for the third sweep of the Lasers (13-8) this season.

Santa Monica (14-6), the third-place team from the Western State Conference, posted a 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 semifinal upset of WSC champion El Camino (15-5) on Wednesday, setting up a rematch with OCC in the final, Friday at 7 p.m., also at Santiago Canyon.

The Pirates swept the Corsairs, 25-23, 25-22, 25-19, in their previous meeting this season, Jan. 31 at OCC.

OCC, on a nine-match winning streak, is hoping to buck another trend in the title match, in which it has lost nine times, including its last seven appearances. Turner, in his seventh season, coached OCC squads that came one win away from the program's sixth state crown in 2012, 2010 and 2008.

"That may be," Turner said of the nine runner-up finishes, "but these [OCC players'] history in the final has been perfect. These guys are undefeated in the final. The one thing about the JCs is, it's a new group every year, so I'm not buying [any trending futility in the final]. And I won two championships in the final [as an OCC player in 1989 and 1990], so I've been pretty good in finals."

OCC, which earned its 14th sweep in 2014, has won 56 of 63 sets this season, and will play in a state-record 15th state title match, was much better than pretty good against IVC.

The Pirates had 46 kills, 19 more than the Lasers and hit .293 as a team, 139 points better than the designated visitors. OCC posted a 28-21 advantage in digs and a 44-27 bulge in assists.

Sophomore outside hitter Ty Hutchins led the winners with a match-best 20 kills and the BYU-bound pin powerhouse hit .333, while adding two block assists.

Freshman opposite Jim Webb chipped in 12 kills, five digs and two block assists, while sophomore setter Brandon Duff had 42 assists, four digs and half of his team's four ace serves.

OCC freshman Nick Amado had six kills and hit .444, while fellow middle Scott Metrakos and freshman outside hitter Brandon Dau contributed four kills apiece. Dau had four digs.

Freshman libero Ryan Manoogian led the Pirates with eight kills, helping the designated hosts lead by as many as seven in every set.

Hutchins said the string of upsets did not contribute to any added focus on beating the Lasers yet again.

"We don't really worry too much about the other team," the 6-foot-5 Arizona native said. "It's all about us. I know that our best is better than anybody else's."

Hutchins said his team has maintained a killer instinct all season and it will be ready for the final.

"I think we're still peaking," Hutchins said. "We have yet to reach our potential and that's exciting. The goal was not to peak back in March; the goal is to peak on Friday. It's going to be the best volleyball that we've played all season. It tends to be the most difficult matches, or those played at the highest level, are the most fun matches, so of course I'm excited for Friday."

The Pirates' five state championships (1994, 1991, 1990, 1989 and 1987) rank fourth behind Long Beach (eight), Los Angeles Pierce (seven) and Golden West (six).

Santa Monica's two state championships came in 1981 and 1979.

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