No. 3 College of the Canyons moved one step closer to reaching the state championship tournament for the third time in program history, as the host Cougars defeated No. 14 Golden West College 3-1 in the opening round of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California Regional Playoffs on Tuesday. Set scores were 25-7, 21-25, 25-13, and 25-17.
Canyons (23-5, 7-1) was led by Emily Burns who tallied a match-high 24 kills, while Caroline Page and Shayla Johnson chipped in 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Rachel Perez dished out 51 assists while Demi Dawson paced the defense with 20 digs.
"I thought in the second set we started playing a little more for ourselves instead of as a team and it got to [a point] where it was too late," Burns said. "But we bounced back in the third set."
COC head coach Clay Timmons echoed the sentiment.
"I'm very happy with the way we came out and executed the game plan," said Timmons. "We also played very clean and didn't make points for them. There was no reason to get a little timid and complacent, second guessing ourselves. But we did [in the second set}. This is the playoffs, we cannot take any points off."
The first set started in style with a double block from Burns and Morgan Ferguson. A kill from Burns on an overpass and an ace from Dawson then kicked off a 4-0 run for the Cougars. After a hitting error from the Rustlers, the Cougars went on a 9-0 run highlighted by an ace from Mykhala Stillings. Canyons easily took the first set as Burns crushed a kill from the back row.
"I think Rachel [Perez] did really great tonight", Burns said. "She was very diverse in where she was setting."
Set two started off much differently as the Cougars made back-to-back hitting errors. However, they rallied and took a 7-4 lead on an ace from Burns. The set was not over as the Rustlers (13-13, 10-6) pulled off their own rally, grabbing a 15-12 lead on back-to-back hitting errors from the Cougars. After Ashleigh Atsaros of Golden West racked up a kill off the high hands, the lead for the Rustlers swelled to 22-17 and proved too big for the Cougars to overcome. The set ended on a kill from Eden VanWaardenburg down the middle.
Similar to set one, set number three started off with a double block from Ferguson and Burns. After a Burns kill, the lead reached 4-0 and the Rustlers were forced to call an early timeout.
After Ferguson and Johnson teamed up for a block, the lead swelled to 9-2 and the Cougars never looked back, finishing the set on an offspeed kill from Johnson.
Burns got things started in set four with a huge kill from the outside and added an early ace to force a quick timeout from Golden West. Once again, it was a timely double block from the Cougars that placed momentum firmly in their corner. This block came off the hands of Perez and Ferguson to extend the lead to 16-11. The match ended on a kill from Toni Bido into the coffin corner, moving the Cougars once step closer to its goal of advancing to the state championship tournament.
"We are going to try to eliminate things like set two from happening in our next match," Timmons said. "That way we can stay more cohesive, the camaraderie is where it needs to be, and everyone is just doing their job, not worried about anything else."
Canyons will now advance to face No. 11 El Camino College (20-4, 7-1) in a second round playoff match at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Cougar Cage. The winner will advance to the 2017 CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship tournament being held Dec. 1-3 at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif. The eight-team tourney will include four qualifiers from both the Northern California and Southern California regions.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
— Brandon Johnson/COC Sports Information
—Photo credit Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information