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Long Beach City College Volleyball

LBCC Volleyball Drops Heartbreaker State Championship To Orange Coast

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It was a case of heartbreak repeating for the Long Beach City College men’s volleyball team. The Vikings entered the CCCAA state championship match Saturday evening against Orange Coast as the No. 1 ranked team in California, having won 16 straight matches and only dropping two sets in that span. But for the second consecutive year, they lost in the final match of the season to Orange Coast, falling 25-23, 17-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12.

Asked how he’d talk to his team to try and contextualize a successful season that ended in disappointment, LBCC coach Jonathan Charette was candid about the challenge.

“We want to look at the body of work we did from the end of August all the way up to this moment, this was one roadblock in a long career for them as student athletes,” he said. “I know they’re hurting right now, it’s going to be hard for them to hear that message. But this is just part of the journey.”

The Vikings dropped a close first set but rebounded to blow the Pirates away in the second, opening up with a 14-6 lead behind really aggressive service pressure that took OCC completely out of system. When LBCC was able to repeat the performance late in set three behind a 4-0 service run that included an ace from Matthew Pennala, they took a 2-1 lead in the match and it looked like they were headed for a happier ending than last year’s state finals loss.

But the Pirates rallied back in the fourth set and won the frame with their own service pressure, keeping LBCC in scramble mode as they built a big lead to force a fifth set. As is so often the case especially in big matches, the battle at the end lines really decided the match.

“They served really well from the end line and put that pressure on us,” said Charette. “We couldn’t run the system we wanted to, so hats off to OCC for serving well.”

In the fifth, LBCC started off up 3-1 and looked ready to roll. But another strong service run led to a 4-0 OCC run and a 5-3 lead. LBCC came within a point of tying the frame several times, but weren’t able to string together enough plays to come level, although it felt like momentum was turning their way a few times. The loss of setter Sean Nguyen to a leg injury late in the frame effectively ended things with a few points to go.

LBCC was led by Matthew Pennala’s 23 kills and seven digs, and Georgi Binev’s 14 kills, nine digs, and two aces. Nguyen had 50 assists before departing plus 10 digs, and libero Julian Zavala had 12 digs. OCC was led by Sebastian Lara’s 23 kills. LBCC outhit OCC .298 to .291 in the match.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.