College of the Canyons volleyball suffered its first defeat of the young season, losing in three sets to Irvine Valley College, last year’s state champions and the team that eliminated the Cougars from the playoffs last year.
The first set went back and forth with the Cougars taking an early lead, but they never pushed the advantage to more than three points. Ahead 18-16, COC dropped the next three points before eventually falling 25-23.
COC head coach Clay Timmons believes the first-set loss set the tone for the rest of the match and his team could not recover.
“I think anybody could have won that first set and we kind of gave it away with some unforced errors,” Timmons said. “Then they started feeling good about themselves and we started doubting ourselves.”
COC (2-1) got down early in the second set 10-6, but were able to get back in the game after Valencia alumna and freshman Georgia Sherman served up a couple of aces. After bringing the score to 10-9, the Cougars then lost eight of the next nine points and fell too far behind, losing 25-13.
While Irvine Valley College (2-0) is clearly a talented team, freshman libero Elizabeth “Tiny” Gannon believes her squad is just as talented. According to her, miscommunication and simple mistakes are what cost the Cougars.
“I definitely think we can take that team. I think it was mostly on our side. Unforced errors and giving them easy points,” Gannon said. “They were just playing their game very strong and we just didn’t take care of business tonight.”
Timmons reiterated Gannon’s statement, saying his team struggled to execute.
“We thought we had a pretty good game plan but it wasn’t executed. Plain and simple,” he said. “I don’t think Irvine was forcing points on us. We were kind of doing that to ourselves. I felt like we get a little bit ahead of ourselves in some of these points.”
The third set had a similar feel as the second. The Cougars stayed close early in the game, tying the score 10-10, but lost the next three points in a row. Sophomore outside hitter Shayla Johnson tried to keep the Cougars in the game with two of her team-high five kills coming in the final set, but it wasn’t enough as COC lost 25-15.
Saugus alumna and freshman Grace Ferguson led the Cougars defense in the front row with six assisted blocks. Gannon was a force in the back row, recording 20 digs, while Johnson, who played in the front but was often near the end line helping out the defense, added 13 digs.
“It’s a lot of the front row working with the back row so when you have that really nice block up it’s way easier to play defense,” Gannon said. “Those were some of the positives. When we had the block up, it made the defense way easier to play.”
While the loss isn’t the result Timmons was hoping for, he believes facing a challenging team like Irvine Valley will provide great experience for his young squad.
“We’re going to treat this as a fantastic learning opportunity because that’s the kind of caliber volleyball team we want to compete against and beat,” he said. ‘
COC will travel south this weekend to play in the San Diego Mesa Invitational before welcoming in Long Beach City College on Wednesday, Sept. 12, a team helmed by three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.