SMC Men's Volleyball loses 3-1 in semifinals, ending their dreams of repeating

Stepping onto the floor of the Pierce College gym for the state semifinals, the reigning men's volleyball State Champion Santa Monica College Corsairs knew they were in for a tough battle against arguably the best team in the state this year, the Orange Coast College Pirates. The Corsairs have history against the Pirates. Two years ago, both teams met in the state championship game where the Pirates bested the Corsairs. Last year in the playoffs, both teams faced off in the semifinals. However this time, Santa Monica was victorious leading to their own state championship. Then back on February 20 of this year, OCC swept SMC in three straight sets.

The Corsairs knew they needed to play a great match if they wanted a chance to win, and they did, but Orange Coast had different plans.

The Pirates proved victorious over the Corsairs in a hard fought 4-set match (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 26-24) that had fans on their feet screaming from beginning to end.

From the first point of the match, it was evident the Corsairs were ready to play.

"Sometimes we start off a little slower," said Santa Monica's first year head coach Jackson Meticchechia. "We needed to enjoy the opportunity and leave it all out there."

Both teams traded points back and forth early in the first set until the Pirates pulled ahead with a three point lead, 17-14, which drew a timeout from the Corsairs side. Out of the timeout, the Corsairs pulled back to level, 21-21, on a monster kill by outside hitter, Richard Yu. After trading some more, SMC took the set, 25-23.

As the second set got underway, both teams looked to be evenly matched. SMC gained an early edge and pushed ahead to a 13-10 lead in the set after a kill and a block by SMC's sophomore outside hitter Max Nua which caused OCC to take a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Pirates started to find themselves. They were able to chip away at the Corsairs lead and eventually broke away by winning eight of the last 11 points to win the set 25-21 and draw the match level at one set a piece.

Orange Coast continued grooving in the third set by jumping ahead to an early lead and never looked back taking the set 25-18.

The Corsairs with their backs against the wall regained their composure and stepped it up a notch in the fourth set. Early on, SMC pushed ahead to a 9-5 lead, yet Orange Coast brought the score back level with a string of scores. The two teams battled neck and neck until the end of the set. At 24-24, both teams gave everything they had in a point that felt like it lasted five minutes. Players diving across the floor for saves, big hits and a few blocks. The point had a bit of everything in it, however SMC ended up on the losing side and dropped the set and match the next point.

The Corsairs left everything on the court, but didn't have enough to edge out a victory against a tough opponent.

"I wish it [the season] didn't end so soon," said Meticchechia. "It's been a really good experience. You can win or lose, but it's about being around good people and being competitive."

The Corsairs finished what has been another great season for the men's volleyball program at SMC. With Jackson Meticchechia coming back for his second year as head coach and plenty of players returning, there will be a great chance this time next year for the Corsairs to be back in the playoffs.