Pirates advance to state semifinals with four-set win over Griffins

Pirates advance to state semifinals with four-set win over Griffins

COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College men's volleyball team will be returning to the State Final Four for the ninth time in 10 years with a four-set win over visiting Grossmont College on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Volleyball State Championships.

With the win, the top-seeded Pirates, (19-1), winners of 18 straight matches, will take on the winner of the L.A. Pierce/Santa Monica City College matchup, which also took place on Friday night. The state semifinals will be at L.A. Pierce College on Thursday, with a time to be determined. A win on Thursday will bring the Pirates back to the State Finals for the third time in five years.

"It was a nice win for us against a team that's much better than the last time we played them," OCC head coach Travis Turner said. "Our setters (Colby Elder and Jacob Gilliam) really did an outstanding job tonight. I think the key to our win tonight was we set the ball better than they did."

The combo of Elder and Gilliam combined for 46 assists with the majority of those helpers sent to the hitting duo of Jordan Hoppe (22 kills) and Justin Kam (18 kills).

"Those guys have really been outstanding for us," Turner said. "It's nice to have a big second weapon out there."

Steven Rodriguez had 16 kills for the eighth-seeded Griffins (6-11), who pushed the top-seeded Pirates past three sets, something that's happened only eight times this season.

With some strong serving from Grossmont setter Nicholas Calderon, Grossmont jumped out to an early 11-8 lead, forcing the Pirates into an early timeout.

From there, Coast turned on the jets and used an 8-1 run to grab the lead for good. A pair of kills from Matt Ujkic as well as put-aways by Hoppe and Kam helped turn the momentum back to the hosts.

Grossmont hung around  and trailed 21-16 before Coast ripped off the final four points to grab the opening set.

It was another big run midway through the second set which proved to be the difference for Coast. Leading, 11-9, OCC used another 8-1 run to pull away from the relentless Griffins. Kam had three kills during the outburst, while Hoppe added two, pushing the Pirates into a 2-0 lead in the match.

With the third set tied at three, the Pirates went into an all-around slump seldom seen in the Peterson Gym as Grossmont ripped off 11 of the next 12 points to lead, 14-4.

"I think the guys were looking ahead and we got distracted a bit," Turner said. "Once we got back to work, we were OK from there."

Coast pecked away at the deficit and got to within a pair at 22-20, but Grossmont used the big hitting of Rodriguez to win the third set and extend the match.

There would be no mid-set daydreaming for the Pirates in the fourth set as they jumped to an 18-9 advantage and never looked back. Fifteen of OCC's 25 points came off of kills as the aggressive play returned to the offense and the match went to the Pirates.

"As far as who we play on Thursday, each team has its obstacles," Turner said. "Santa Monica gave us our only loss so we know what they're all about and if LA Pierce wins, they'll have the home-court advantage so we need to bring our best game no matter who we play."