Pirates sweep past Roadrunners, Corsairs in season-opening tri-match

Photo courtesy of Steven Guersch
Photo courtesy of Steven Guersch

COSTA MESA -- The late Bob Wetzel would have been proud of the effort put forth by the Orange Coast College women's volleyball team after the Pirates rolled past visiting Rio Hondo and Santa Monica City on Friday night in a season-opening tri-match inside the Peterson Gym.

OCC made quick work of the Roadrunners in the opening match, winning, 25-13, 25-19, 25-14. Following a five-set marathon between SMCC and RHC (won by Santa Monica), the Pirates took on the Corsairs, and won, 25-22, 25-20, 25-16, following a pre-match ceremony that honored Wetzel, OCC's first men's volleyball coach who passed away on July 26 at the age of 87.

Against the Roadrunners, Brisa Zapata-Reaves paced a well-balanced offensive gameplan with 16 kills, while Izzy Duchaine and Leah Thibault added six each and Natalia Brandlin and Paige Cutwright knocked down four kills in the middle. 

Rio Hondo showed some early life in the opening set and led early, 10-9, before a steady barrage of strong serves from Thibault set the tone for 16-3 run that ended the opening set in favor of OCC. Thibault served seven straight points, and she helped pave the way for some easy kills from Zapata-Reaves and Cutwright during that outburst. 

The second set was a carbon copy of the first as RHC jumped out to a 14-12 advantage, only to see Coast rip off a 13-5 run to close things out. Four straight RHC unforced errors turned the momentum to the Pirates favor as they grabbed the lead away from the Roadrunners and never gave it back the rest of the set.

There was NO slow start for OCC in the third set as a 10-2 run opened things on the side of the Pirates, who never looked back the rest of the set. Six Zapata-Reaves kills in the third set the pace for the Pirate offense as the Roadrunners wilted under the barrage of the Pirate attack.

In the nightcap against the Corsairs, Coast saw Santa Monica carry its momentum from its hard-fought, five-set win into the early stages of the OCC match and the guests carried a 14-12 advantage. A 7-3 outburst by the Pirates gave Coast a 19-17 advantage and in spite of SMCC hanging around, the Pirates didn't surrender the lead the rest of the way, with Brandlin supplying the final three points with a pair of kills and a block. 

In a pattern that Coast hopes to correct as the season progresses, the Corsairs jumped out BIG on the Pirates, leading 18-11. But the strong serving of Thibault returned just in time for the Pirates as the freshman OH sparked a 12-0 run. While she only had one ace, each serve proved difficult for the Corsairs to control, which led to several unforced errors and OCC points. 

Following that huge swing of momentum, it was just a matter of collecting two more points, which came from kills by Kingsley Mason and Brandlin, putting Coast up 2-0 in the match. 

Much like the opener, the third set was no contest as the Pirates jumped out to a 15-7 advantage early on and cruised to victory from there. 

Nine different Pirates recorded kills in the nightcap, with Mason leading the way with nine and Zapata-Reaves with seven. 

Coast returns to action on Wednesday at Citrus College (5 p.m.) before returning to the Peterson Gym on Wednesday, Sept. 7 against Ventura, beginning at 6 p.m.