In leading up to the official start of the 2018-19 athletics campaign at Irvine Valley, which starts on Aug. 25 with the IVC men's soccer team at Yavapai in Arizona, the Laser athletic department is counting down the top 10 IVC sports stories from the 2017-18 school year.
The No. 1 story and biggest of the year at Irvine Valley during the 2017-18 school year was the remarkable season turned in by the women's volleyball team. The Lasers had a perfect season. They finished with a record of 27-0, captured an Orange Empire Conference title and won the second California Community College Athletic Association State Championship in program history. IVC was led by sophomores Olivia Aguilar, Megan Ramseyer, Taira Ka'awaloa, Diamond Brogan and Gabi Lau with big contributions from freshman players Alyssa Vortouni, Alma Entesari and Renata Bath.
No player has ever reached the level that Irvine Valley sophomore outside hitter Olivia Aguilar achieved in early December. The 6-foot-1 sophomore delivered a state championship final match record 30 kills as she rallied the Lasers from a set down to capture the 2017 CCCAA State Women's Volleyball title in defeating San Joaquin Delta, 23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-16, at Solano College in Fairfield.
In the process, her hitting helped Irvine Valley complete a perfect season at 27-0.
The Lasers and Mustangs (25-5) reached the final by both making it through five-set semifinal victories on Saturday night.
IVC led, 10-5, in the first set but Delta fought back and eventually took a 16-15 lead. Amilya Thompson pounded her eighth kill for set point and a 1-0 Mustangs lead. While Delta and the partisan North region crowd got excited, Aguilar, who had seven kills in the first set, had other plans in mind than watching her team lose another set.
It sounded like a broken record on the public address microphone as "kill by Aguilar" was called out frequently at the start of the second set. She knocked down four kills on four consecutive plays assisted by sophomore setter Megan Ramseyer for an 11-3 IVC lead. In all, Aguilar, from El Toro High, scored a ridiculous 10 kills in 21 attempts in a 9-point game win that tied the match at 1-1. The tide had turned.
In the third set, Delta responded to take an 11-7 lead, but Aguilar again started peppering the Delta defense with powerful swings, landing four kills in a 9-5 run. The Lasers went ahead, 20-19, on an ace by sophomore libero Gabi Lau. Two more Aguilar kills and an assisted block gave IVC the game at 25-20 and a 2-1 sets lead.
In the fourth set, Delta had seen enough and faded in a series of attack errors and other mistakes. Irvine Valley went on an 8-2 run to close out its second state title in four years, and the first by a Southern California region team since 2014.
"We felt pretty good about ourselves after that first set, and then Aguilar just took over the match pretty much single-handedly," said Delta coach Molly Mordaunt-Hummel. "We just couldn't defend their outsides even though we tried. In all, I can't be anything but happy because our goal was to just make it to state. We took a set from an undefeated team and we beat a great Cabrillo team in the semis. That's pretty special."
Aguilar talked about her team keeping things together after losing the opening set.
"I think the Canyons match helped us from the night before," she said. "So we didn't let being behind bother us. We just went about making sure we play our type of game, and that if we did, we would come out on top. I also want to thank our trainers for helping me with treatment and getting me through the tournament."
Aguilar had played the past month with tendonitis in her right swing arm, but you wouldn't have known it from her finals performance. The tourney MVP hit .348 overall and totaled a tourney-high 69 attacks with six errors. She added 10 digs, two aces, and three blocks.
All-tourney selection Taira Ka'awaloa, a sophomore outside hitter, added 15 kills. The All-American Ramseyer dished out 49 assists with 12 digs and two aces. Lau totaled 30 digs, the most by any player in the state tourney since 2009.
"Even if I didn't get a good pass, it didn't matter because no matter where I set it, our outsides would get the kill," all-tourney setter Ramseyer said. "This was just such a great unit, where everyone did their jobs with no drama."
IVC head coach Tom Pestolesi said: "We've lost the first set in a couple of matches this year, but our team just never panicked. Olivia picked the right match to have a career high in kills. We have such a great assistant coaching staff and the players always made the right adjustments after receiving instruction on the side. One of our assistants, Ryan Windisch, would say before each match, 'win the day.' Right before the final, he said, 'win the season.' And today we did it."
The previous high in a state final match for kills was 27 by Long Beach City's Juliana Guimares in 2000 (a losing effort but the last tourney MVP from a non-champion). The high for kills in a state tourney match remains with Kiwi Winkler of Orange Coast, who had 33 in a 2006 game v. Delta.
Irvine Valley is the first undefeated state champion since...itself in 2014 when it also finished perfect at 27-0.
The Lasers reached the state final after a five-set triumph over No. 3 Canyons, 25-19, 13-25, 28-26, 23-25, 16-14 the night before.
In the fifth set, Canyons faced double match point but tied it at 14-14 on a kill by All-State hitter Emily Burns. Freshman outside hitter Alyssa Vortouni and Ka'awaioa answered for the Lasers with kills to cap the marathon victory.
Irvine Valley received another stalwart effort by its dynamic hitting duo of Ka'awaioa with 25 kills (66 attempts) and 12 digs and Aguilar, who powered 26 kills (64 attempts) with 18 digs. Vortouni came up big late in the match and finished with 10 kills.
Remseyer set 56 assists and added 14 digs and Lau defended well on 27 digs.
"Alyssa stepped up and had her best match of the year, making some really huge kills in that fifth set," Pestolesi said. "We really have had some great matches over the years with Canyons. But what makes them great is that it's a classy program with quality coaches like Lisa Hooper and now Clay (Timmons). When we play them, it's all about volleyball, nothing else. It's a bummer someone had to lose."
At the end of the season, Ramseyer and Aguilar were named All-American, All-State and All-Region.
In addition, Pestolesi was named the Southern California Regional Coach of the Year.
Ramseyer and Aguilar had already been named co-Most Valuable Players of the Orange Empire Conference when awards were announced last week. Pestolesi was named coach of the year in the OEC.
And Aguilar (Cal State San Marcos), Ramseyer (Butler), Ka'awaloa (Hawaii Hilo), sophomore middle blocker Diamond Brogan (Cumberland) and Lau (Western New Mexico) all signed with four-year schools to continue their athletic and academic careers.
Aguilar and Ramseyer were named co-MVPs of the Orange Empire Conference.
Aguilar led the Orange Empire Conference and ranked fourth in the state at 4.78 kills per set on the year.
She was also third in the conference and ranked 16th in the state in hitting percentage at .347. She had double digit kills in all 16 conference matches.
Ramseyer ranked first in the state in assists at 11.33 per set. She had a season-best 53 assists in IVC's four-set win at Orange Coast to finish off the regular season.
Ramseyer also averaged 2.09 digs per set and leads the team in services aces with 41 and has contributed 27 blocks on the year.
Ka'awaloa, who was named first team all-conference, was second in the conference in kills per set at 4.12 per set. She ranked No. 10 in the state in kills per set. And she was second in total kills in conference at 367. And she ranked fifth in hitting percentage in the conference at .321.
Brogan was a second team all-conference player for the Lasers. On the season, she averaged 1.36 kills and 0.72 blocks per set and had a hitting percentage of .324.
Lau, who was named first team all-conference, led the Lasers and was 13th in the conference in digs per set at 2.96 during the regular season and picked that number up even more in the postseason for Irvine Valley. After IVC's run through the state tournament, Lau ended the year with a digs per set average of 3.55.