Katie Wilkerson spikes the ball in Irvine Valley’s three-game sweep of Golden West on Tuesday (Oliver Yu)
The serving game of the Irvine Valley College women’s volleyball team lived up to the team’s namesake on Tuesday. The Lasers, ranked 12th in the state, swept the Golden West Rustlers, ranked 17th in the state, in three games in the first round of the Southern California Regional. Just as they did in their season finale last Wednesday, the seventh-seeded Lasers made quick work of 11th-seeded Golden West, 25-16, 25-15, 25-10.
IVC improved to 15-4 overall on the season and 11-4 against Orange Empire Conference opponents.
The Lasers will head to Torrance on Saturday at 6 p.m. to take on two-time defending state champion El Camino, ranked second in the state, for the right to go to Stockton for the state championship tournament.
“For whatever reason,” IVC coach Tom Pestolesi said, “we played three of our best matches of the season against Golden West.”
Both teams came out firing in the first game forcing an early 4-4 tie. The Lasers created a distance with an 8-1 run to give them a lead they would not drop.
“We were kind of scared since we beat them two in a row,” IVC outside-hitter Katie Wilkerson said. “We didn’t want to come out flat, but we were hyped. It was fun.”
The teams, more or less, traded points down the stretch, and Wilkerson put home an ace for the 25-16 win.
Golden West tried to respond with a 3-1 lead in the second game, but IVC was dominant with its serving game with five aces during an 11-1 run.
“We changed our serving philosophy,” Pestolesi said. “We were worried about hitting our spots, so we said, ‘Forget it. Go out and bomb.’ It gives us the ability to score a lot of points quickly.”
The Lasers continued their quick strike tactics and made a seemingly unmatchable distance between the teams with a subsequent six point run with two aces for the 18-6 lead. Golden West pulled within nine points at 24-15, but its own hitting error ended the second game in a 25-15 IVC win.
In the third game, both teams fought hard in the early goings.
Tied at 4-4, IVC quickly knocked out any hopes for a Golden West comeback. The Lasers went on 21-5 run that culminated in a lengthy rally as Golden West staved off elimination. The Rustlers committed one final hitting error to end the rally in the 25-10 IVC win to complete the sweep.
“We hit .471 as a team tonight,” Pestolesi said. “That’s ridiculous as a team.”
Wilkerson led the Lasers with 13 kills and added six digs. Hillary Crone was close behind with 12 kills. Nichole May was a star on defense with 10 digs. Casey Lile led the Lasers’ serving game with five aces and Maddie Sapigao added three aces. Allie Hammer put up 34 assists.
IVC will need to have a similar performance against El Camino on Saturday. The back-to-back state champions will be a tough match for the Lasers.
“They are very well coached and are always a solid team,” Pestolesi said. “But we told the kids all year to just worry about us.”