Women's Volleyball

Volleyball team headed to state after hard-fought, five-set win

Volleyball team headed to state after hard-fought, five-set win

The Irvine Valley women's volleyball team is back in the 3C2A State Championships.

The Lasers defeated Orange Coast, 25-22, 20-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9, in a hard-fought, almost two and a half hour match Saturday night in a So. Cal. Regional final at home.

Irvine Valley now heads to the state tourney at Mt. SAC, starting next Friday under first-year head coach and former Laser star player Anna Unke.

The last time IVC reached the state event was in 2019 with legendary coach Tom Pestolesi and Unke on that team.

The Lasers went 27-1 that season, dropping its only match of the year in the final against Feather River in five sets.

Unke was a defensive specialist and libero on the 2018 and 2019 IVC squads and went on to stand out at NCAA Division I Cal State Bakersfield as an indoor and beach player for the Roadrunners.

"It feels awesome," Unke said about reaching the state tournament. "The players have worked so hard. They deserve this. They have showed this kind of fight all season long."

Saturday night, it was all about battling for Irvine Valley.

The Lasers fought all night long to move on to state.

Irvine Valley was out in front early. The Lasers jumped out to a 16-8 lead in the first set on an ace by sophomore setter Mia Bertolone. And it was 17-9 IVC after a tip kill by sophomore middle blocker Avery Bennett.

But Orange Coast got within 21-18 before IVC scored three points in a row on two kills by sophomore outside hitter Tessa Marocco and another serve winner by Bertolone.

Marocco finished off the set with a kill off of the block.

Irvine Valley looked like it would be an early night after it raced to a 7-2 lead in the second set, but Orange Coast had an answer. The Pirates went on a 19-8 run and took a 21-15 lead.

A kill by Lulu Utterback gave Orange Coast a 25-20 win in the second set.

The third set was back and forth the whole way. There were eight ties. OCC led at one point, 14-12, and Irvine Valley took a 18-16 lead on a kill by sophomore opposite Ava Guenther

Irvine Valley moved in front for good at 23-20 on a combo block for a point by Bennett and Guenther. 

A kill by Bennett put the Lasers at set point up, 24-21.

And sophomore outside hitter Olivia Ortega ended the set with a kill for IVC.

The fourth set was tied at 10, but Orange Coast went on a 10-2 run to take control. The Pirates led, 20-13, after a combo block for a point by Abigail Brown and Kingsley Mason.

A block by Utterback ended the fourth set and sent the sides to a fifth and final set for a trip to state.

The fifth set was tied at 4-4.

But Irvine Valley scored four straight points. A kill by sophomore middle blocker Natalia Brandlin gave Irvine Valley a 7-4 advantage and forced an OCC timeout.

And out of the timeout, Guenther came through with a kill to make it an 8-4 game.

The Lasers went up, 10-6, after a kill by Brandlin.

Irvine Valley lead by at least four points the rest of the way.

A tip winner by Guenther gave IVC match point at 14-8, and Guenther then finished things with a kill.

Marocco finished with 19 kills and 28 digs, Guenther had 14 kills and six digs, Brandlin added 13 kills and three blocks and Bennett contributed six kills and four blocks.

IVC freshman libero Audrey Fowler ended with 20 digs, Ortega had five kills and 25 digs and Bertolone ran the offense with 52 assists and chipped in 10 digs.

"I knew it was going to be a battle and probably a long match," Unke said. "Orange Coast is a very good team, but we were able to grind through it and win. I am so proud of them."

The Lasers move on to the 3C2A State Championships at Mt. San Antonio College. The Lasers start play in the event on Friday against the No. 1 team from the north, San Joaquin Delta on Friday at 10 a.m.

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