As two-time defending state champions, the Irvine Valley Men’s volleyball team realizes that every match in the Pacific Coast Conference is a heated rivalry, and last Friday night was no exception.
The Lasers (4-3 overall, 1-0 in PCC) hosted Golden West (2-4, 0-1) in both team’s PCC opener, and the five-set slugfest had it all, including a come-from-behind rally and a furious back-and-forth pace set by IVC early on. After taking the first set 30-27, the Lasers lost momentum as the Rustlers began doing things their way, including an 11-5 run that saw handed the Lasers their most lopsided loss of the year, 30-15 in the third match.
Down a full set, Irvine Valley had two options – fold up the tent and crumble, or take the loss in stride and move on to force an extra session. The fourth set showed why the Lasers are defending champs, as their heart and determination took over. Tied at 17, Golden West had no answer for a 7-0 Irvine Valley run, and eventually lost the set, 30-21, to force the extra period. After a kill by freshman middle blocker Taylor Galliano (Foothill High), a solo block by freshman Corey Brophy (Mission Viejo) and another block by freshman opposite Billy Woodall (Irvine), the Lasers entered the tie-breaking fifth set with a full head of steam.
IVC found themselves in a dogfight, down 13-12 in the final set, until freshman outside hitter Brandon Directo (University) tied things at 13 with a kill. An ace by freshman setter James Alexander (Arcadia) gave the Lasers the lead, but only momentarily, as the Rustlers again tied the set at 14. Tied at 15 apiece, Irvine Valley then called upon Galliano, who recorded a kill, and Brophy, who blocked a Golden West kill attempt to end the set and the contest, 17-15.
Directo had 17 kills and eight digs to lead Irvine Valley, as Brophy finished with 12 kills and freshman outside hitter Aaron Gerardi (Fountain Valley) tallied 11 kills of his own. Alexander finished the night with 20 assists, while freshmen Chris Reames (Laguna Beach) had 12 digs and Nick Castello (Assets School, HI) had 11.
Irvine Valley’s next match is on the road this Wednesday at 7 p.m. against PCC powerhouse Orange Coast College (5-2, 1-0), in a match that pits last year’s state finalists against one another. The Lasers also take on San Diego City on Friday night at 6 p.m. in San Diego. The Knights have not won a game this season, and the Lasers swept them in six sets last season to take both head-to-head matchups.