The Irvine Valley women's volleyball team opened the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship much like it has played all season as the state's No. 1-ranked team.
The South top-seeded Lasers used efficient hitting, including 16 kills by freshman outside hitter Lea Kruse (.324 hitting percentage), and a solid defense to sweep North No. 4 West Valley, 25-16, 25-20, 25-22, in the first of four quarterfinals Friday at Solano College in Fairfield.
Irvine Valley, the defending state champs, is now 21-1 this season and 48-1 over the last two seasons. The only returning team in the tournament field of eight, IVC has swept all three of its playoff matches.
West Valley's Cinderalla season ended at 17-10. The Vikings were an original No. 8 seed in the North and the third place team in the Coast Conference North Division, but beat San Joaquin Delta and then upset No. 1 North seed Cabrillo in five sets to reach the tourney for the first time in 12 years. WVC officially finishes in a tie for fifth place at the state tournament.
After controlling the first two sets, Irvine Valley found itself behind, 14-7, in the third set.
However, Kruse went on a roll, scoring eight kills in the set and rallying the Lasers to the final set triumph. Sophomore libero Renata Bath tallied 22 digs, while freshman setter Truth Hafey dished out 38 assists and had 12 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Alaina Gendale had nine kills (.304), sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Vortouni made seven kills and Jacqueline Wolfe, using a booming swing off plays, nailed six kills. Sophomore middle blocker Kylie Miller added four blocks (two solos).
For West Valley, All-American First Team outside hitter Mapu Sekona scored 10 kills in 39 attempts and added seven digs and four block assists. Shannon Green scored seven kills with strong net play and Hannah Reynoso added 12 digs and displayed a deceptive serve.
"We played like we belonged here," said WVC head coach Armen Zakarian. "That we played a team that is No. 1 over the past two years in Irvine Valley, you are facing the best. Mapu may not have been as big a factor, but we got here by not relying so much on one player and getting others to perform. We had different players, like Green today and Jenna Gomes in the regionals step up in the playoffs."
Irvine Valley head coach Tom Pestolesi talked about playing in the morning match.
"It's funny, we held our practices at 11 a.m. all year and then we asked for the morning slot for practice here, so we were quite comfortable getting the early match," he said. "We just played volleyball. Bath has become a more disciplined defender this year, and Truth has greatly improved to become a setter who can spread the ball around and follow the game plan.
"We got into a hole in that third set, but that's happened about eight times this year and we won all of them. We're not a flashy team, but we have been an efficient one."
Irvine Valley moves on to play the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 3 South El Camino vs. No. 2 North American River in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.