Fifteenth-seeded Canyons stuns No. 2 Pasadena City in straight sets; See playoff brackets here

College of the Canyons put up a 3-player blocking wall at times including here v. Lancer Monet Latunde in PCC's Round 1 Regional loss on Tuesday (photo by Michael Watkins).
College of the Canyons put up a 3-player blocking wall at times including here v. Lancer Monet Latunde in PCC's Round 1 Regional loss on Tuesday (photo by Michael Watkins).

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PASADENA - One of the greatest regular seasons in Pasadena City College women's volleyball history met with a playoff whimper Tuesday night. The #2-seeded Lancers saw a 20-match win streak end, a perfect 11-0 record at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium tarnished, and a marvelous 2021 season in which they went 18-0 to win the South Coast Conference title conclude in a shocking 3-set loss to #15 College of the Canyons, 25-20, 25-16, 25-22, in Round 1 of the Southern California Regional Playoffs.

PCC was swept for the first time since the 2019 Round 1 of SoCal Regionals against another Western State Conference school--Moopark. The Lancers were one of three top seeds all to be swept by far lower seed opponents along with #3 San Diego Mesa and #4 Cypress as upsets occurred throughout the region (No. 7 Irvine Valley and No. 8 Mt. San Antonio also lost). Bakersfield, the #1 seed, was the only upper 4 seed to advance to Round 2 on Saturday. 

Canyons, the second place team from the WSC South Division behind champion Bakersfield, won its ninth straight match to improve to 15-10. The Cougars won their second playoff match in four days after needing five sets to beat #18 Mt. San Jacinto in a Play-In Round match last Saturday. After starting the season at 2-8, COC rallied to become one of five WSC colleges to advance to Round 2.

Coming in with the best serving team in SoCal and #2 in the state in aces per set at 3.5, the Lancers serve struggled v. Canyons.  PCC served a season-low three aces (average of one per set, previous low was six), but worse they made 11 service errors while Canyons landed eight aces and made only six mistakes off serves. A minus-8 v. an opponent's plus-2 was just the tip of the iceberg for PCC's issues.

Even after a rough start to set 1, PCC was tied 15-15. At that point, COC went on a mini 5-1 run, three of the points on two PCC attack errors and an errant serve, to grab a 20-15 lead. Service errors on consecutive sideouts and another attack error went for a 5-point set 1 win for the Cougars. The stat sheet showed 13 errors combined in attacks/serves as Canyons net block and strong serving put the Lancers down a set.

In set 2, Canyons led 5-1, but Pasadena took a 9-7 advantage on a combined block by Bia Silva and Paulina Lopez. Three attack errors (one straight into a block kill) and another serving mistake helped COC get back the momentum to lead 12-10. Two block kills and a few more unforced attack errors contributed to an 11-1 run overall as Canyons went on for a 9-point, set 2 win capped by a kill by Ariana Vargas.

In the final set, PCC played its best volleyball of the match as opposite/middle blocker Camila Sanchez-Tellez, the SCC Tournament MVP, pounded four kills, All-American outside hitter Nalani Young hit three kills, and All-SCC Second Team outside hitter Sabiya Esquivel landed two kills to help the Lancers build its biggest lead at 17-12. A Young kill seemed to increase PCC's momentum at 20-15. Instead, it went (WSC) South in a hurry for the Lancers.

Three straight attack errors again benefitted Canyons as the Cougars saw the opportunity for a sweep. A kill by Young tied it at 22-22, but consecutive wall blocks by Damani Harvey and Indiah Lewis allowed Canyons to perform the upset. 

"It was a very tough way to end our season," said head coach Mike Terrill. "We didn't play well enough. Canyons deserves all the credit for having a great plan and executing at a high level."

COC's blocking resulted in nine points (PCC had just two blocks), but it was the play of the duo of Lewis/Harvey along with exceptional hitting by Caitlin Liebe (eight kills, .429) and Jacqueline Ibarra (eight kills, .471) that were keys to the match. 

For PCC, Sanchez-Tellez hit .357 and led all hitters with 15 kills, Young had 10 kills, and Silva, a freshman setter/opposite, had six kills, and match highs of 15 set assists and 10 digs. Sophomore Saku Yoshioka became the second Lancer ever to reach the 100-ace mark in her career as she hit the milestone with two aces, closing her Lancers career with 101. Yanina Gherardi set the record for most aces in 1992-1993 with 117.

Terrill reflected on the 2021 season that featured a SCC undefeated championship with a 5-set win the SCC Tournament title match, a 17.2 points scored regular-season set average that was second in the state, 23 wins to match a PCC high (also in 2009), a No. 3-ranking and SoCal No. 1 rating for most of the season (finished No. 5 in the CCCWVCA Regular Season Final State Top 25), and a No. 2 South seed. 

"Bottom line, we had a special team. We have so many positives to reflect on from the season, including putting together an amazing run to win 18 straight for the South Coast title. I'm so proud of them for who they are as people and what we were able to accomplish together on the volleyball court. There were moments this year that we played at our potential, and it was beautiful to witness."

VOLLEYBALL FINAL NOTES: PCC Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas was in attendance at the playoff match...The last time PCC was swept by an opponent on the HP Gym floor was Nov. 1, 2019 v. El Camino...Young ended her terrific Lancers career by becoming the first PCC player to have more than 500 kills and 600 digs over a 2-season span...Pasadena lost to Canyons despite a 42-30 edge in attack kills. PCC scored 47 total points overall, the lowest output since scoring 43 in a season-opening sweep over MiraCosta...Since Oct. 1, Sanchez-Tellez hit .353 over the course of 12 matches she played in with a 3.12 kills per set average. She scored 36 kills in her last two matches combined for a 4.5 clip per set...Coach Terrill's overall record as coach is 89-44 for an impressive .669 win percentage, including three conference titles in the last four seasons.

Sabiya Esquivel with an attack 

Bia Silva with the dig

Coach Mike Terrill congratulates the players at a timeout