Corsairs set to face previous loss in playoffs

It's rare that one gets to have a second chance to be victorious.

However, the Santa Monica College Corsiars men's volleyball team will have that opportunity when they face the Orange Coast College Pirates, the team that defeated them in last year's California Community College Athletic Association State tournament finals, in the CCCA state tournament semi-finals on Thursday.

In last year's finals, the Corsairs took the Pirates to the fifth set after falling behind 2-0, though the blue and white eventually fell to OCC 3-2.

Coach John Mayer says that this year's Corsair team has found a balance that last year's team lacked.

"Last year's team was a great group that accomplished something that hadn't been done at SMC since 1981 [but] we relied a lot on Keats Stanley and Taylor Tattersall," Corsair head coach John Mayer said.

However, with Keats gone to play professionally in Greece, the team has had to find other sources of offense.

This year, four players recorded over 100 kills and sophomore right side hitter and freshman middle blocker Daniel Vaziri each accounted for 222.5 and 206 points respectively.

This year's edition of the Corsairs is markedly different from last year's as only four of the 14 man roster were in the gym for the finals at Santiago Canyon College last year.

Mayer's approach to Thursday's game, as it has been all season, is to keep going one game at a time.

"We have to serve and pass at a high level. We also plan on being aggressive and playing in a confident, fearless style. If we do these things win or lose we'll feel successful," Mayer said.

But if the blue and white want to win, they will have to defend well to get past the Pirates. Orange Coast comes in leading the state in kills with 929 and second in kills per set.

SMC will have to account for Pirate freshman outside hitter Adrian Faitalia, who accounts for 33 percent of OCC's kills.

The Corsairs were able to keep Faitalia in check when the two sides met on February 6, holding him to five of the 40 kills in the Corsair's 3-1 victory.

The Corsairs will also need freshman outside hitter Harrison Hodgin to continue his strong serving season. He earned the Corsairs 42 points on service aces and averaged 3.2 points per serve.

Should the Corsairs defeat the Pirates, they will face the winner of the match between the Grossmont College Griffins and the El Camino College Warriors.

The Corsairs swept the season series against the Warriors and lost their only game against the Griffins.

The entire team was in the audience as the Pirates defeated the Long Beach City College Vikings last Friday.

According to Mayer, the team was immediately excited for the looming match up.

"After OCC won, the guys were pumped to get the opportunity to play a great team," Mayer said.