This year's Irvine Valley women's volleyball team lost the top four players from 2017's undefeated 27-0 and state championship winning squad including, Orange Empire Conference most valuable players and all-state stars Megan Ramseyer (Butler) and Olivia Aguilar (Cal State San Marcos) along with IVC female athlete of the year Taira Ka'awaloa (Hawaii Hilo) and all-conference libero Gabi Lau (Western New Mexico).
But long-time and legendary Laser coach Tom Pestolesi says the 2018 bunch he is guiding is just as special.
Irvine Valley showed just that and more Wednesday night in another sweep that clinched one of the Lasers first goals of the season - an outright Orange Empire Conference title. IVC clinched it outright with two matches still to go in the regular season.
The Lasers had already earned a share of the title last Friday at home with a straight-set win over Santiago Canyon. But IVC had to take on a Riverside team on Wednesday that was battling for fourth place in the conference, had been ranked in the state poll this year and took a set off of IVC when the Lasers went on the road to meet the Tigers in early October.
Irvine Valley didn't come close to giving up a set this time around. The Lasers were in complete control from the start in a 25-16, 25-16, 25-10 win in what was Sophomore Night at Irvine Valley.
"I am just really proud of our players," Pestolesi said. "I have been impressed. They have played well all season, but we've had our ups and downs like everyone else. The last two weeks, the intensity has increased. The kids have realized that we have to dial up the focus even a little more as we get closer to the end of the season."
Irvine Valley, which won its second conference title in a row outright and fourth OEC championship in the last five years, improved its record to 17-0 overall and 13-0 in conference.
By the way, IVC is also riding a 44-match program win streak dating back to the start of the 2017 season.
Pestolesi isn't focused on that right now. He just wants his team to finish off the regular season the right way.
Irvine Valley has big conference matches coming up on the road in the next two outings. IVC plays at No. 20 Orange Coast on Friday in OCC's Sophomore night. The Lasers then finish the regular season next Wednesday at No. 14 Cypress. The Chargers gave IVC its toughest match so far this year. Cypress won the first two sets before Irvine Valley stormed back to take a dramatic, five-set victory.
"It is a tough final two matches," Pestolesi said. "Both will be real tests."
Irvine Valley was basically in control all night on Wednesday. The Lasers broke open each set early and cruised, especially in the third set when they won the first eight points and led, 11-2, after a kill by freshman outside hitter Lea Kruse. IVC went up, 23-8, and saw the match end on a kill by freshman middle blocker Kristin Austin.
Kruse led the team with 16 kills. She hit an impressive .500 on the night, scoring from all over the floor.
Vortouni added nine kills and two blocks, Miller had six kills and Austin ended with five kills and three blocks.
"Lea and Alyssa and Kylie and Kristin and Jacqueline Wolfe are all scoring for us and Renata is all over the place. She just makes everyone better. And then Truth continues to improve," Pestolesi said. "We have a great bunch of kids and all of them are doing such a good job."