BACK IN ACTION
El Cajon – With Friday’s stand to clinch the victory of its regular season finale, Irvine Valley made a statement.
“We can still play volleyball,” said head coach Tom Pestolesi.
An upset sweep by visiting Palomar College two days prior brought both a Lasers 13-match win-streak and 16-match home win streak to a grinding halt, but proved to be a mere speed bump to the Pacific Coast Conference men’s volleyball Champion.
The Lasers (16-2, 11-1) traveled to Grossmont and left a 30-23, 30-13, 27-30, 30-24 victory in its wake to get back on track just in time for the post season.
“What I tried to get them to do was to picture tonight as being their quarterfinal match,” said assistant coach Jay Hosack. “[I tried to get them to] put themselves in that situation, and kind of live that moment of, hey, this could be our last match.”
Peter Johnson was the embodiment of that mindset. The sophomore outside hitter led his team with 27 kills, five digs and one ace.
“Peter picked a good night to be great,” Pestolesi said.Freshman middle blocker Nick Martus had 12 kills and eight blocks. Freshman setter Phil Younglove added seven stuffed blocks and 58 assists.
The Lasers clinched their third-straight conference title with a sweep at San Diego City College on April 4 to earn a straight berth into the state tournament. IVC will host the event April 24 and 26.
In the semi-finals, the Lasers will face the winner of the quarterfinal match between North No. 2 seed Long Beach City College and South No. 3 victor, which will be decided in Wednesday’s match between Palomar and Golden West College.
Last season, the Lasers defeated Long Beach City College in five games to earn their second state title since 1993.
“We talked about the 800-pound gorilla of the expectations that people have on this team,” Hosack said. “Sometimes when you are that good or have that kind of a record, it’s easy to let the pressure of everyone going ‘you guys should do it’ creep in. In actuality, there’s no pressure; they’re just very good volleyball players.”