The Irvine Valley women’s volleyball team moved on to its first Southern California Regional final since 2009 with probably its best performance of the season.
The Lasers swept Orange Empire Conference rival Fullerton at home Saturday night in the second round of the playoffs.
Irvine Valley, the top seed in Southern California, defeated No. 8 Fullerton, 25-14, 25-13, 25-12.
It was the third time Irvine Valley has defeated Fullerton this season.
It was also Irvine Valley’s 18th three-set sweep this year.
"The kids played really well," IVC Coach Tom Pestolesi said. "We’ve worked hard to be in this spot. We are playing at home and taking care of business."
Irvine Valley was led by freshman middle blocker Annie Mitchem. Mitchem, the Orange Empire Conference most valuable player, as well as an all-state and All-American selection, had 16 kills and six blocks. She had her 16 kills in 27 attempts with two errors for a .520 hitting percentage.
The Lasers, guided by freshman setter and all-Southern California selection Hailey Jones, hit .340 as a team on the night. Jones finished with 40 assists and 10 digs.
Sophomore Alexis Radecki also had an outstanding night for Irvine Valley. She finished with 12 kills, hitting .417.
Freshman outside hitter Marisa Doran added five kills, freshman outside hitter Kobi Pekich had four kills and seven digs, sophomore middle blocker Haley White finished with three kills and three blocks and sophomore libero Becky Moodie had 24 digs.
Irvine Valley led, 15-12, in the opening set, but then closed out the set winning 10 of the next 12 points. Mitchem had three kills and a block during the run and Radecki closed out the set with two straight kills.
There was no doubt in the second set as the Lasers raced out to a 6-1 lead.
Fullerton never got within five points the rest of the set. IVC moved in front, 22-10, on an ace by Moodie.
Mitchem gave Irvine Valley a 23-12 lead with a kill. After a Mitchem hitting error, she came back with a kill and a block to end the set.
The third set was close early, but Irvine Valley used a 6-0 run to go ahead, 13-6.
The Lasers led, 15-7, on a kill by Whyte and, 17-8, after another Whyte kill.
A kill by Mitchem made it a 21-9 score. IVC reached set and match point at 24-10 on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Amanda Kaae. After kills by Alanna Hayhurst and Madalene Barrett kept Fullerton alive, a tip winner by sophomore setter Christine Connolly sent the Lasers on to the regional finals.
Irvine Valley will host No. 4 Santa Barbara City on Tuesday in the regional final. Santa Barbara out-lasted No. 12 Pasadena City in five sets on Saturday. IVC won at Santa Barbara City in five sets very early this season.
"We know they are a good team," Pestolesi said of Santa Barbara City. "But the main thing for us to worry about is to try and continue to do the things that have made us successful."