Loaded roster, expectations for Lasers

A GOOD TIP

Cerise Ostrem

When the shoes to fill involve a state championship, the experience of having walked that road before is invaluable.

Fortunately for Irvine Valley’s men’s volleyball team, a handful of veterans and a plethora of talent has kept the start of the Lasers 2008 season in stride with their high expectations.

To win. A lot.

And while sweeps over El Camino and Santa Barbara are nice ways to start a season, the Lasers’ expectations extend far beyond nonconference victories.

Coach Tom Pestolesi and his team are already looking at the end result, and they may just have the personnel to do that. That starts with sophomore outside hitter Peter Johnson.

“We have people that know what it takes. We’ve been there. We did it,” said Johnson, 2007 Pacific Coast Conference most valuable player. “We know what we need to do to get to that level and so far we set the bar pretty high.”

Johnson, who tied for a match-high 14 kills in Wednesday’s’ season-opening 30-21, 30-26, 30-23 sweep over the visiting Warriors, was the Lasers’ kill leader last season, which ended with a 17-3 overall record and a state championship victory over Long Beach City College.

He is one of the five familiar names from last season’s roster and the only returning starter.

Libero Kaleo Baxter, Adam El-Rakabawy, Tim Golden and Mitch Lawrence also return to IVC’s roster, but Baxter was the only other Laser to see playing time last season.

Baxter led the Lasers with 13 digs. El-Rakabawy and Golden finished with eight and five kills, respectively.

“Last year, [we had] all freshman, not a lot of leaders,” said assistant coach Jay Hosack. “This year, leadership has really stepped up. The guys from last year’s team understand what it takes. They know the program.”

The Lasers do have new freshman talent in starters such as Reese Haine, Nick Martus and setter Phil Younglove.

Haine matched Johnson’s 14 kills and five digs and Martus had 12 kills and four blocks. Younglove finished with 47 assists.

“We have a lot of good volleyball players out there,” Hosack said. “We don’t go up and down. We have a maintaining level of calabar of play. We like what we see so far.”

The Lasers will travel to LA Pierce College on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest. before returning home for a to face Long Beach City on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.

BLOCKED AND LOADED

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