Pirates shocked in State Semifinals as Lasers win in four

Pirates shocked in State Semifinals as Lasers win in four

FULLERTON -- One of the most memorable seasons in Orange Coast College men's volleyball history ended in a resounding thud on Thursday night as the Pirates dropped a heartbreaking four-game match to rival Irvine Valley in the semifinals of the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Volleyball State Championships, hosted by Fullerton College.

The fourth-seeded Lasers (15-7) will take on No. 3 Long Beach City College on Saturday night for the state title after the Vikings pulled off their own upset, sweeping past No. 2 seeded El Camino.

For the Pirates (22-1), it was a bitter pill to swallow after such an incredible run of dominance throughout the 2019 season. Sixteen of OCC's 22 wins came by way of three-game sweeps and the Pirates finished their season winning 67 sets while losing only 11.

Kyle McCauley had 18 kills and 10 digs for Coast, while Jake Loudenback, Clark Steele and Jack Flynn each had seven kills. But, 22 hitting errors (tied for the most this season) and a .217 hitting average as a team (lowest for the Pirates this year) both came at the wrong time of year as the inspired Lasers took advantage.

Demetre Gossett had 16 kills to lead the Lasers, while Declan Holder added 11 kills on 15 attempts with no errors.

Coast led 18-15 in the opening set before five consecutive IVC points gave the Lasers a 20-18 advantage. With OCC behind 23-21, a kill by McCauley, an IVC hitting error and an ace by Chaz Hafter gave Coast a 24-23 lead and an opportunity to grab the opening set. 

But kills by Gossett and Luke Davis and a hitting error by the Pirates gave the Lasers three straight points and a 26-24 win in the opening set.

OCC's best set of the night came in the second as the Pirates ripped 12 kills with only three errors. Coast jumped out to an 8-3 lead and never allowed the Lasers to go on any type of offensive run to get back into the match. The Lasers got to within two at 23-21 before a service error by the Lasers and an ace by McCauley gave Coast a 25-21 win and evened the match at a set apiece.

In the third set, the Pirates led 13-11, only to see the Lasers respond with seven points in a row and grabbing the lead for good. OCC would get to within two at 23-21 but the Lasers took advantage of a pair of hitting errors for the final two points and IVC grabbed a 2-1 lead in the match.

An early 8-4 lead for the Lasers in the fourth set was washed away by a 9-1 OCC run, giving the Pirates a 13-9 advantage. But IVC clawed back and evened the set at 23. Both teams traded points to tie things at 24 before a Holder kill and a Gossett ace ended the match.

For this sophomore-heavy Pirate roster, it was a two-year run they should be extremely proud of. Over the past two seasons, OCC has posted a 42-4 record with two Orange Empire Conference titles, two trips to the State Final Four and played in last year's State Championship match against L.A. Pierce. McCauley has been the offensive leader over that span with 448 kills in 42 matches played. His 61 aces are No. 2 all time on OCC's record list, while his 42 aces this year was second-most for one season.

Freshman Aiden Wolf-Nielsen, hampered by a thumb injury prior to Thursday's semifinal match, finished this season with 93 kills and a .531 hitting percentage, second-best for one season in school history.

OCC's 22 wins are the most for one season, shared with the 2002 team (22-1), the 1991 team (22-3) and the 1990 team (22-2). 

It was the second year in a row which an undefeated top seed lost in the state semifinals (20-0 Long Beach City fell to L.A. Pierce in 2018).