Victorville, Calif. — With the cheers of Victor Valley College’s home crowd to her right and the visual reminder of the narrowing score to her left, Irvine Valley’s setter Kelly Keating looked to keep her team’s focus straight ahead.
One high five, several encouraging words and two sets later, the Lasers had their first win of the season in the season-opening sweep August 31.
“We need to keep talking, we need to keep hanging out, we need to keep getting close to each other,” said Keating, who finished with 38 assists. “We’re still pretty much strangers. That’s how I look at it.”
Keating is one of only two returning sophomores on the young, but talented, IVC lineup that learned its first lesson of persistence when it evaded the encroaching Rams to close out the 30-21, 30-20, 30-25 victory.
“In practices, we’re going to be drilling them really hard to let them know that the only way we win is to work harder than everybody else,” said Lasers assistant coach Ki Yi. “We have to be one percent better every single practice and we’re going to keep letting them know that we’re not going to let them get content.”
With Orange Empire Conference company that includes two-time state champion Orange Coast College, the Lasers know their challenges will only increase come the opening of conference play Sept. 28, but are keeping their eyes on one team in particular.
“In all honesty, our biggest competitor is going to be us,” Yi said. “We’re young so, depending on where we go, I think we could beat everyone, while, at the same time, I think we could get beat by everyone.”
One key factor that will help determine between those two outcomes is the talent of freshman outside hitter Chelsea Pavlick, who led the way Friday with 15 kills.”She’s going to be our bread and butter this year,” Yi said. “She’s our Lauren Miller of last year.”
Freshman Camryn Torromeo finished with four kills and four aces and libero Amanda Donaldson ended the night with 15 digs.
The Lasers will continue non-conference play Wednesday, Sept.5 when they host San Diego Mesa at 5 p.m. Until then, they have a one percent improvement to focus on.
“Whatever the other teams do, they’ll do, but if they have to play the best Irvine Valley, it’s going to be hard to beat the best Irvine Valley,” Yi said. “We’ve just got to get them to that level. That’s our challenge.”