Irvine Valley's women's volleyball team lost six players, including five that earned four-year scholarships, from its 2017 team that went 27-0 and won the second state championship in program history.
Gone are standouts Megan Ramseyer (Butler), Oliva Aguilar (Cal State San Marcos), Taira Ka'awaloa (Hawaii-Hilo), Gabi Lau (Western New Mexico) and Diamond Brogan (Cumberland).
But there didn't look to be much of a drop off with the 2018 Lasers on Tuesday night in their home opener at home.
IVC played tough and focused from start to finish in sweeping a strong Long Beach City squad, 25-21, 25-20, 25-20.
"We had some phenomenal kids last year and two huge arms (in Aguilar and Ka'awaloa)," IVC coach Tom Pestolesi said. "The difference from last year to this year is I think we have better balance hitting and really good depth."
That was evident on Tuesday as freshman outside hitter Lea Kruse had 28 hitting attempts, freshman outside hitter Gabriela Griego finished with 23 attempts, sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Vortouni had 20 attempts and sophomore middle blocker Kylie Miller swung 16 times.
Griego led the way with 11 kills with Kruse adding nine kills, Vortouni finishing with eight kills and Miller contributing six kills. Miller also had five blocks, Kruse chipped in 10 digs and three aces and sophomore libero Renata Bath had 12 digs and four aces.
Freshman setter Truth Hafey did a nice job of spreading the ball around to her teammates and ended with 31 assists on the night.
"We served great tonight, as good as I've seen from one of our teams in years," Pestolesi said. "The players really believed in what they were doing out there against a very good team that is well coached.
"It was nice to see that confidence. This was a solid start to the season. Now it is important that we keep building on it."
Irvine valley jumped out to early leads in each set. The closest of the three was the first where the Lasers led, 19-18. But IVC went on a 4-1 run capped by a kill by Miller and an ace by freshman outside hitter Alaina Gendale to take control at 23-19.
Four points later IVC earned the set after Long Beach City served out.
The Lasers raced out to a 10-2 and then 14-4 lead in the second set. Long Beach City climbed back to within 20-18 late after a kill by Isabella Alvarez. But Irvine Valley won five of the next seven points to take a 2-0 lead in sets.
Kruse finished the set off with a kill off the block and Bath had two aces and freshman middle blocker Kristin Austin and Hafey combined for a block for a point during the closing run.
In the third and final set, IVC took a 5-0 lead only to see Long Beach City battle back to within 8-7.
But the Lasers led, 17-11, after an ace by sophomore defensive specialist Jade Parham and never looked back.
A kill by Kruse gave Irvine Valley a 22-17 advantage and later a kill by Vortouni set up match point at 24-19.
Griego ended the match two points later with a kill.
The Lasers will take the rest of the week off, but travel to College of the Canyons next Wednesday for a 5 p.m. contest. IVC defeated Canyons in five sets in last year's state semifinals.