All season long, Karlee Riggs has been a reliable force for the Orange Coast College women's volleyball team.
Pasadena City College Tammy Silva would say the Pirates relied on their standout outside hitter a little too much Saturday in the second round of the California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern Regional playoffs at Orange Coast.
"Wherever she was, that's where they were going," Silva said.
Orange Coast's one-dimensional offense allowed the Lancers to zero in on Riggs, as the rest of the Pirates couldn't keep the visitors honest. It led to a disheartening loss for Orange Coast, which dropped the final three games after winning the first two, 19-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-17, 16-14.
Pirates Coach Chuck Cutenese couldn't argue with Silva.
"Anyone who's seen us, heard of us, looked at our stats knows Karlee gets a lot of swings at the ball," Cutenese said. "The problem was we needed our middles to put some balls away to allow her to swing against a one-on-one block and we weren't doing that."
Of fourth-seeded Orange Coast's 55 kills, 31 came from Riggs. No other Pirate had more than six kills, as Morgan Link and Dana Nicholson finished with six each.
The fifth game was tightly contested, with 11 ties and six lead changes.
Orange Coast bounced back from a 3-1 hole and used a 3-0 lead to take its first multi-point advantage of the game, 8-5, on a kill from Riggs and two unforced Pasadena errors. The Lancers responded with a 4-0 run of their own to reclaim a slight advantage on two kills from Noralia To'omalatai and a kill and block from Megan Callen.
"At that point all we had to do was side out and the next time we serve it's 9-8," Cutenese said. "We struggled in rotations and unfortunately we found ourselves in a tough rotation in game five, couldn't get out of it and let them back in. Those are the things that are hard to live with — knowing that you were so close and had so many opportunities."
Riggs started heating up late in the game, as she scored three straight points on kills for the Pirates, who found themselves up, 13-12. Pasadena's Jackie Valle-Acosta knotted the score with a kill of her own, but Orange Coast stayed in front, 14-13, after Pasadena setter Kailey Faust and Valle-Acosta's timing was off on a quick attack, resulting in an error and match point for the home team.
Silva called timeout and the Lancers rebounded with their back against the wall on a kill from Virdiana Gallardo. Callen put all the pressure on Orange Coast as she read a Riggs kill attempt from the back row perfectly and blocked it to give Pasadena match point, 15-14.
With the match season on the line, the Pirates went back to Riggs, but her back-row attempt landed just outside the back line to give the Lancers the victory.
Pasadena moves on to face L.A. Pierce, which defeated El Camino, 25-9, 25-23, 25-23, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the third round of the regional playoffs, with a trip to the State Championship on the line.
Five players from No. 5 Pasadena had at least nine kills, with To'omalatai leading the way with 19. Valle-Acosta (14), Yanise Joseph (13), Gallardo (12) and Callen (nine) also helped shoulder the offensive load.
Still, the Pirates (19-3) had a number of opportunities to put Pasadena away, but never could. The match seemed to be headed for a sweep, but the Lancers (21-4) came out loose and aggressive in the third and fourth games to force a deciding fifth frame.
"We never got into game three and that carried over into game four as well," Cutenese said. "They played extremely aggressive and I felt we played not to lose, instead of playing to win. ... I was shocked to see us play that way late in the season."
Orange Coast won the first game easily, 25-19, after Pasadena committed 14 unforced errors and Riggs logged four kills and an ace in the opener. Fittingly, the Pirates clinched the game on a Pasadena net violation.
The Lancers used a 7-2 run to take a slight 10-7 lead in the second game, but couldn't stay on the attack, as the Pirates went on a 13-5 run — behind eight Riggs kills — to take a 20-15 edge and hold on for the 25-22 win.
Pasadena came out loose and with nothing to lose in the third and fourth games and ran away with both of them. Riggs had just two kills in the third game after posting 14 in the first two. Much credit went to Pasadena middles Callen and Valle-Acosta, who finished with five and three blocks, respectively, for containing Riggs late in the match.
It helped the Lancers overcome a two-game lead and erase any bad memories they may have had after they were swept by the Pirates, 25-13, 25-23, 25-19, on Sept. 13.
"I told the team the hardest thing about looking back is all three of our losses were teams we'd beaten and matches we were in and had a chance," Cutenese said. "It's different when someone comes in and completely dominates you, and that wasn't any of our losses."