Lasers volleyball sweep again to advance to Regional Finals

The Lasers celebrate after sweeping the Fullerton College Hornets on Saturday night. IVC advances to the third round of the Southern California Regionals where they will host Santa Barbara City College. (Michael Grennell)

For the third time this season, the Irvine Valley College women’s volleyball team defeated Fullerton College, as the Lasers advanced to the third round of the Southern California Regional playoffs with a three-set sweep (25-14, 25-13, 25-12) Saturday night.

After scraping past No. 9 Los Angeles Pierce College with a five-set win in the first round, the No. 8 Hornets couldn’t keep up with the Lasers’ attack.

“I’m disappointed in tonight’s performance,” Fullerton head coach Ed Rapp said. “We were hoping to carry some of that momentum [from the win over LA Pierce] in tonight. We needed to put a little more pressure on them with our serve. We didn’t get in that rhythm.”

IVC head coach Tom Pestolesi said after the game that the team’s ball control, as well as freshman middle blocker Annie Mitchem were crucial for the team’s win.

“We were able to get the ball to Annie [Mitchem], and what that does is free everything else up,” Pestolesi said. “She was pretty good, as usual, but tonight she was very good.”

Freshman setter Hailey Jones finished the night with 40 assists and 10 digs, her third straight game with 30 or more assists and 10 or more digs. Jones said after the game that she felt the team put out a solid effort.

“Our passing was really well. We were able to run our offense and run our middle line,” Jones said. “Annie [Mitchem] got a lot of kills from the middle because of our passing. We went out as a team and we played really well.”

Mitchem led the Lasers with 16 kills and 3.5 blocks in the win. The Orange Empire Conference MVP extended her streak of matches with double-digit kills to five, and has recorded 10 or more kills in 11 of her last 12 games.

The Lasers’ only other player with double-digit kills was sophomore middle blocker Alexis Radecki, who finished the game with 12 kills, 2.5 blocks, and one dig. Sophomore libero and team captain Becky Moodie had her second game of the season with 20 or more digs, finishing the night with 24.

The win marked the first time since 2009 that the Lasers advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The No. 1 Lasers will now host No. 4 Santa Barbara City College on Tuesday night, in the final match before the State Finals.

“We tell them, ‘It’s just another match. We’ve rehearsed this 22 times now, so you know what to do,'” Pestolesi said. “If we do things that we’re capable of doing, I like our chances.”

Santa Barbara is coming off a five-set win (19-25, 25-19, 25-19, 27-29, 15-13) over No. 12 Pasadena College. IVC and Santa Barbara faced off earlier this year, in the Lasers’ second match of the season with IVC coming out on top in five sets (25-21, 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 17-15). The winner of Tuesday’s game will advance to the State Finals at Foothill College on Dec. 7 and 8.

“I think our chances are really good,” freshman outside hitter Marisa Doran said. “We’re working together, and I think coming in undefeated we have nothing to lose at this point, and we’re just ready to work hard and leave it all on the court.”

Even with the Lasers’ performance through the season, Pestolesi remains focused on each game, one game at a time.

“We just worry about us,” Pestolesi said. “We’ll figure things out of what we need to do against [Santa Barbara College].”

The Lasers also received a vote of confidence from Rapp on their chances through the rest of the playoffs following Saturday night’s win.

“IVC is on top of their game now,” Rapp said. “They’re looking really strong, and definitely a contender for that state title.”