Since its season opener, expectations for defending state champion Irvine Valley has been high.
It was in the men’s volleyball team’s season finale that even the expectations were surpassed.
With only five returners from the 2007 squad that won the program’s second title since 1993, the Lasers lineup nailed out back-to-back sweeps in the 2008 California Community College Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball Tournament to nail up back-to-back state championship banners on Hart Gymnasium’s wall.
“It’s hard to win a championship at any level,” said coach Tom Pestolesi. “We knew that if we played our game, we liked our chances.”
Led by two-time Pacific Coast Conference player of the year Peter Johnson, the Lasers (18-2) followed Thursday’s 30-20, 30-26, 30-27 sweep over Long Beach City College with a 30-24, 30-23, 30-19 victory over conference rival Orange Coast College.
OCC, which entered Saturday’s final courtesy of a 3-1 semifinal victory over Santa Monica College and sophomore Kevin Welch’s 27 kills Thursday, had been the only team to push the Lasers to a five-game match this season, but was unable to subdue its rivals in their 14th sweep in 18 victories.
“We’re like the Iceman from Top Gun,” Pestolesi said. “He just wares you down.”
The only returning starter from last season’s championship team, Johnson, encored his 20 kill semifinal performance with a match-high 22 kills in Saturday’s final.
“What can you say about Peter?” Pestolesi said. “He came through all year last year, all year this year…. That’s just Peter.”
The sophomore outside hitter preceded his final performance as a Laser by signing a letter of intent to University of California, San Diego, earlier that day.
Outside hitters Reese Haine and Tim Golden finished with 11 and six kills, respectively. Libero Kaleo Baxter has six digs and freshman setter Phil Younglove totaled 44 assists.
Tournament most valuable player Johnson, Haine and Baxter were named to the all-state tournament team.
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