Pirates return to State Final Four with sweep over Vaqueros

Pirates return to State Final Four with sweep over Vaqueros

COSTA MESA -- For the 12th time in 13 seasons, the Orange Coast College men's volleyball team has earned a trip to the State Final Four as the Pirates rolled past visiting Santa Barbara City College in straight sets on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym.

Kyle McCauley had six kills and five aces, while Garrett Halsey added five kills to lead the top-seeded Pirates (22-0) to a 25-15, 25-17, 25-12 win over the eighth-seeded Vaqueros (11-8) in a match that looked nothing like the previous matchup between the two schools back on March 16.

In that match, played at SBCC, the Pirates were pushed to five long sets before finally prevailing, 25-23, 25-19, 28-30, 21-25, 15-9. On Friday, the Pirates found a higher gear and SBCC could not keep up, sending Coast back to the Final Four for the fifth straight season.

Freshman middle blocker Aiden Wolf-Nielsen ripped four kills to go along with five total blocks and two aces, while Jake Loudenback, Clark Steele each had three kills and three blocks.

For the Vaqueros, Calvin Sanborn, the state leader in kills heading into Friday's match, was limited to just three kills for the night, while Trent Lingruen led the offense with seven kills.

Coast set the tempo for the night and kicked off the first set with an impressive 12-3 run. McCauley had a kill and four aces during that span, while Halsey and Wolf-Nielsen each chipped in a kill as the Pirates opened strong and never let up.

The lead grew to 11 at 21-10 before a 5-1 run by SBCC made the score seem closer than it was. Coast closed out the opening set with a kill by Halsey and a pair of SBCC errors to grab a 1-0 lead in the match.

Santa Barbara held an early 6-4 lead in the second set, only to see OCC go on an 11-4 run to regain the lead for good. Seven SBCC errors plus kills by Loudenback, Wolf-Nielsen and Jack Flynn highlighted that scoring outburst as the aggressive style of the Pirates forced the Vaqueros into several offensive and defensive miscues. 

In the third set, it was more of the same as a pair of kills by McCauley and two kills and two blocks by Steele helped spark a 17-6 OCC run and the rout was on. For the match, SBCC committed 36 unforced errors (missed serves, missed returns, net violations, etc.). 

With the win, Coast will take on No. 4 Irvine Valley on Thursday at Fullerton College, beginning at 7 p.m. The Lasers topped No. 5 Moorpark College in four sets, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 26-24, on Friday night. OCC is 2-0 against the Lasers with a pair of three-set sweeps during Orange Empire Conference play.

OCC will be shooting for its eighth men's volleyball state title in school history after claiming the school's 20th conference championship this year.