Pirates prevail over Rustlers to sweep season series

Pirates prevail over Rustlers to sweep season series

COSTA MESA -- It was a statement that was uttered by head coach Travis Turner a month ago and it's a statement that still rings true for the Orange Coast College men's volleyball team ... "Jordan Hoppe refuses to let our team lose."

Such was the case for the Pirates, who overcame a third-set deficit to rally past rival Golden West, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23, on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym.

Hoppe, who served the final four points with his team down, 23-21, finished with team-best 14 kills and two aces for the Pirates (14-1, 4-0 in Orange Empire Conference), winners of 13 straight and owners of the state's No. 1 ranking.

Justin Kam added 10 kills and a team-high four digs, while Austin Marriott was a force in the middle, notching six kills out of nine attempts with no errors.

Both teams went back and forth early in the opening set before the length of the Pirates began to take its toll on the Rustlers (8-6, 1-4). Leading 8-7, Coast ripped off four straight points with kills by Hoppe and Matt Ujkic and a pair of blocks by Marriott and Ujkic, putting the hosts up 12-7.

GWC hung around and trailed 16-12 before strong serves by Chase Moothart (two aces) sparked another 4-0 outburst, putting the Pirates comfortably in front for the remainder of the first set.

The Rustlers again battled the Pirates throughout the first half of the second set and trailed by just one point at 17-15 before Coast relied on another strong serving effort by Moothard to rip off six straight points to put the second set out of reach. Hoppe took advantage of the run and slammed three kills, while Kam added a kill and Marriott added a solo block.

Coast led 6-5 in the opening moments of the third set before the Rustlers showed some fight and went on an 11-3 run to grab a 16-9 advantage, forcing the Pirates into using both timeouts during the outburst.

Coast brought in 6-foot-9 middle blocker Chris Orem and the momentum began to return to the hosts, who went on a 6-1 run to get to within a pair at 17-15. Orem notched a pair of key blocks, while Kam and Ujkic notched kills during that stretch.

GWC would return the favor and ran off a 5-3 mini-run to lead 22-18, but the Pirates, who were supported throughout the match by dozens of former players in the stands, would muster one big comeback against their heated rivals.

A kill by Kupaa Harrison and a pair of errant returns by the Rustlers brought the Pirates to within a point at 22-21. GWC scored the next point to make it 23-21, but that would be the final burst of happiness for the Rustlers the rest of the night. 

A tandem block by Hoppe and Marriott made it 23-22 and following a GWC timeout, the Rustlers were called for a net violation, tying the set at 23.

With Hoppe firing off a mixture of hard and off-tempo jump-serves, Coast picked up another big tandem block by Marriott and Kam, putting Coast in front 24-23.

As the Peterson Gym crowd rose to its feet, Hoppe went for it and ripped his hardest jump-serve of the night. The serve, destined to go long, banked off a GWC player, giving Hoppe the ace and the Pirates the straight-set win.

Coast will play at Fullerton College on Friday night, beginning at 6 p.m. before returning to the Peterson Gym on Wednesday, April 12 for a rematch with Irvine Valley College, beginning at 6 p.m. OCC swept past the then-top-ranked Lasers in straight sets, 25-20, 25-11, 25-15, back on March 24, putting the Pirates on top in the state rankings.