The Orange Coast College men's volleyball team earned the No. 1 seeding in the state and will host No. 8-seed Santa Barbara City College in the opening round of the Southern California Regional playoffs on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym, beginning at 6 p.m.
The Pirates (21-0) -- champions of the Orange Empire Conference for the third year in a row --are having a season to remember in 2019, winning 21 straight, including 15 by way of three-game sweeps. However, one of those non-sweeps occurred on March 16 at Santa Barbara City College where the Vaqueros (11-7) pushed the Pirates to the limit before OCC prevailed in five sets (25-23, 25-19, 28-30, 21-25, 15-9).
"SBCC is an extremely tough first-round match," OCC head coach Travis Turner said. "They are one of four or five teams that could win it all. They have three skilled hitters and a very strong serving team. We will need to be playing at our highest level right away against a team like this."
It'll be a rematch that features two of the top hitters in the state. For Santa Barbara, freshman outside hitter Calvin Sanborn leads all of California with 271 kills, including 22 against the Pirates back on March 16. For the Pirates, sophomore slugger Kyle McCauley equaled Sanborn's performance with 22 kills against the Vaqueros and is OCC's top point-getter with 155 kills.
Coast's numbers are distributed up and down the roster, thanks in large part to such a dominating performance throughout the regular season. Six different Pirates have over 70 kills, including McCauley, sophomore OH Jack Flynn (107), sophomore opposite Clark Steele (92), freshman middle blocker Aiden Wolf-Nielsen (77), sophomore opposite Garrett Halsey (70) and freshman middle blocker Will Anderson (70).
Two other SBCC sluggers to keep an eye on for Friday night's match, besides Sanborn, include freshman Trent Lingruen, who was second on the team with 219 kills and sophomore Blake Lockhart, who notched 178 kills, The SBCC trio accounted for 75 percent of the team's offensive production this year (668 of the team's 895 kills).
The OCC setting duo of sophomore Enzo Boggio (339 assists) and freshman Jordan Rodriguez (211) have helped pace the Pirate offense all season long, while for the Vaqueros, freshman Aaron Letvin has led the way with 546 assists.
The Pirates' bread and butter all season has been the ability to limit the opponent's ability to rip off several points in a row with solid passing and defense. Sophomore libero Braden Neumann anchors the OCC defense with 103 digs. SBCC has its own supply of steady defenders, led by Chayton Clark with 130 digs, with Lockhart close behind with 121.
The winner of Friday's match will advance to the state semifinals, where they will face the winner of No. 5 Moorpark and No. 4 Irvine Valley on Thursday, April 25 at Fullerton College (time TBA). The state championship will take place on Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m. at Fullerton College.