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No. 15 Canyons Sinks No. 10 Ventura 3-2 to Get Back Into State Title Tourney

By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director 

VENTURA — College of the Canyons is heading back to the CCCAA State Championship Tournament for the fourth time in program history after storming back from a 2-0 deficit on the road to defeat No. 10 Ventura College 3-2 on Saturday night. Set scores were 19-25, 16-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-10.

Canyons (16-10, 10-2) trailed Ventura (18-7, 8-2) by a 20-18 score, and was facing elimination, late in the third set before going on a run that prolonged is seemingly Cinderella season. COC outscored the Pirates 7-2 to close out the set and spark a comeback that eventually resulted in the Cougars making their third trip to the state championship tourney since 2015. 

Sophomore Damani Harvey hit .310 for the match and tallied a team-high 14 kills to help lead the attack. Her three aces and nine digs also did much to help the Cougars' cause. 

Brianna Botello ended her night with 13 kills on a .345 hitting night. That kill total equaled the sophomore's totals from her last five match appearances.  

COC sophomore Caitlin Liebe was next with 11 kills to round out the double-digit scorers.

Abby Sherman was impressive again with 39 assists and a game-high 14 digs. Sherman also added three aces to tie with Harvey for the team lead. Rhiannon Boddy did her part with 13 digs.

Ventura got off to a hot start and looked to be in complete control during a dominant 25-16 second set score. Alexis Baloyo led the Pirates with 15 kills and six digs. Victoria Whitney was next with 10 kills. Nevada Knowles served up four aces in the match to go with 43 assists.

After its third-set rally to stave off elimination COC got into a nice groove to easily control the fourth set.

With both teams desperate to advance it was Canyons, with its momentum, that emerged from the fifth set to spoil Ventura's hopes at an elite-eight berth to the state tourney.

No. 15 seed Canyons has now won 10 straight matches to vault itself into state championship hunt. 

The Cougars began the 2021 season with an 0-3 record and compiled a 2-8 overall record through the month of September, while playing one of the state's toughest non-conference schedules.

Since then, the team's only losses have come in back-to-back matches vs. Western State Conference (WSC), South Division champion and No. 4 state ranked Bakersfield College on Oct. 22 and WSC, North conference champion Moorpark College, which ended the regular season ranked No. 12 in the state, back on Oct. 26

Canyons, which finished second in the WSC, South standings, had previously defeated Ventura by a 3-2 (25-17, 20-25, 16-25, 26-24, 15-12) score in the regular season finale. The two teams also met back on Sept. 17 with the Pirates picking up a 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-21) home win.

The Cougars began the postseason with a home play-in match vs. No. 18 Mt. San Jacinto, eventually winning 3-2 (25-16, 22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-8) to advance to the regional bracket.

The 2021 CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship Tournament will be held Dec. 3-5 at Fresno City College. The single-elimination tournament with feature the top four teams from each region playing down to a championship match at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5.

From the South, Canyons is joined by No. 1 seed Bakersfield (22-1, 12-0), No. 13 Grossmont College (19-4, 12-2) and the winner between No. 3 San Diego Mesa (21-4, 13-1) and No. 6 Moorpark (18-6, 8-2), with that match scheduled for Monday, Nov. 29.

The Cougars previously defeated Grossmont 3-2 (25-17, 25-14, 17-25, 18-25, 17-15) on Sept. 4. COC also lost to San Diego Mesa 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 19-25) on Sept. 10.

The North is represented by No. 1 seed Feather River (31-1, 10-0), No. 2 West Valley (21-4, 12-1), No. 3 and tourney host Fresno City (30-3, 16-0) and No. 4 American River (25-6, 14-2).

The 2021 tourney field features four of the six programs that competed at the 2019 State Championship in Feather River, Fresno, American River and Grossmont. 

Feather River was the 2019 state champion and will be looking to defend its title. A state championship tournament was not held in 2020 sue to cancellations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Canyons is returning to the state championship tourney after appearances in 2007, 2015 and 2017. This is the second appearance for COC head coach Clay Timmons (2017, 2021). Timmons was also an assistant coach under Lisa Hooper when the Cougars advanced in 2015.

In 2007, Hooper's Cougars finished second in the WSC, South but went on an impressive playoff run that included wins over top-ranked Orange Coast and Irvine Valley College to get into the tourney. 

COC hosted the 2015 state championship tournament and played to a school-best third-place finish. The Cougars racked up playoff wins over Ventura, Grossmont and Santa Barbara City College that season to advance, then defeated eventual state champion Cabrillo College on the double-elimination tournament's opening night before suffering back-to-back losses.

Canyons was back in the mix in 2017, earning a 3-0 win over Feather River in the opening round then falling to eventual state champions Irvine Valley by a heartbreaking (19-25, 25-13, 26-28, 25-23, 14-16) final result.

Tournament information, schedules and brackets from both regions is available on the CCCAA women's volleyball championship page here.

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. 

—Photo by Mari Kneisel/COC Sports Information