The No. 3 Long Beach City College men's volleyball squad looked to extend their Western State Division – South led on Friday night as they hosted the No. 4 Santa Monica City College Pirates in the Hall of Champions Gymnasium. After earning a 2-0 set lead, the Vikings stumbled and dropped the following two sets to force a fifth set. Long Beach remained poised and came back to win the fifth set and take the match with set scores reading 25-19, 25-18, 24-26, 19-25, 15-8.
While being riddled with injuries, the Vikings displayed a new-look lineup that boded well in the early stages of the match. Freshman opposite Steven Rotter (La Palma, CA) and sophomore middle Elia Garcia (Bellflower, CA) kicked off the contest by linking up for a block to set the tone. Rotter continued on to hammer home a kill that ricochet off a Santa Monica player's chest. Sophomore outside Travis O'Gorman (East Northport, NY) started off the game on a tear by hammering home two-consecutive kills to bring the score to 8-all.
Garcia displayed some defensive skills to force an error on the Pirates to snap the tied score. However, the lead dwindled once again until another O'Gorman kill brought the score back in the Vikings favor by one point. Sophomore outside Taylor Dorr (Kona, HI) handed the Vikings a one-point advantage, followed by a stuff from sophomore setter Jayce Ashment (Gilbert, AZ) after a nice serve from libero Neil Taitano (Carson, CA). O'Gorman and Garcia rose up for a dual stuff the following serve to award the Vikings a 25-19 win in the first set.
The second set boded just as well for Long Beach as O'Gorman took the reins early and recorded four kills leading to an early 8-all tie. Sophomore setter Gary Trejo (Downey, CA) put his defensive skills on display by reacting to a very nice serve from Santa Monica, ultimately leading to an assist as O'Gorman rose up for a monstrous kill.
LBCC began to pull away as Rotter put the Vikings up 17-11 with a thunderous kill, backed by a kill from Garcia. O'Gorman sealed the deal with another kill to give the Vikings a 25-18 lead entering into the third set.
However, sloppy play from the Vikings and proper adjustments by Santa Monica in the following two sets forced a fifth set to decide the match.
Sophomore middle Elia Mama (Moreno Valley, CA) fueled the offense from the get-go with a massive kill in the middle. O'Gorman continued to press his foot down on the gas pedal by recording three-consecutive kills. Sophomore outside Cyrus Fa'alogo (Salt Lake City, UT) go in on the action and took over the rest of the set by recording a handful of key kills down the stretch stemming from good defense from the likes of sophomore libero David Escobedo (Los Angeles, CA). Mama ended the game with a solo stuff in the middle en route to a 15-8 set win and a 3-2 match victory.
"Resilience is a great word," said Head Coach Jonathon Charrette after fighting back for the victory in a five-set thriller. "The guys were patient and they played very well."
A unique lineup was a key part in the Vikings success and a deep bench is a valuable thing entering into playoff time.
"[The starters] did a great job and I think Santa Monica made some great adjustments before we made our adjustments. Everyone that played also did a great job. It is good to see that we can go deep into our bench and use a lot of our subs when we need to."
Conference play is coming to a close and the playoffs are looming in the near future. Charrette is confident in his bunch as he seeks back-to-back State Championship titles.
"We have to stay healthy and we have to get a little bit better from the service line. Also, be ready from what L.A Trade Tech has to show us on Wednesday and El Camino on Friday."