COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College women's volleyball team maintained its third-place spot in the Orange Empire Conference with a solid three-set win over visiting Cypress on Friday night inside the Peterson Gym.
In a battle between two of the top four teams in the OEC, the Pirates (13-3, 6-2) extended the gap between third and fourth as the Chargers (8-6, 4-4) drop into a tie for fourth with Riverside City College (10-8, 4-4). Coast is just two wins behind first-place Irvine Valley after the first round of conference play.
Lucrezia Lualdi led the Pirates with 14 kills, while Mahina Kenoi added nine kills and Joceline Martinez slammed down eight to go along with a season-best 10 total blocks. Her 10 blocks were the third-most for one match in OCC history, topped only by Barbara Kelly (12 in 1985) and Kelly MacFarlane (11 in 2000).
For the Chargers, Britany Zavala had 10 kills to lead the team.
In the opening set, both teams traded good-sized runs and it looked like OCC would pull away at 23-19. But Cypress used a 6-1 run to grab a 25-24 lead and served for the opening set. But OCC regrouped and used a Lualdi kill, a double-contact violation and another Lualdi put-away to steal back the first set, 27-25.
With the second set tied at 8, OCC used a 9-2 run to grab a 17-10 advantage. Lualdi ripped three kills during that run, while Martinez notched a kill and three blocks as OCC grabbed control of the momentum and a two-set lead in the match.
Cypress wouldn't go away quietly and the Chargers busted out of the gates in the third set, leading 15-9. But OCC would use their strong play in the middle and the strong right arm of Lualdi to rip off seven straight points and take a 16-15 advantage. Cypress got back even at 18, but from there, it was all OCC as the Pirates served, blocked and put away seven straight points to close out the match.
OCC will return to action on Wednesday at Saddleback College (6 p.m.) before returning to the Peterson Gym on Friday against Golden West (6 p.m.).