In a highly touted contest of top-five competitors, the No. 5 Long Beach City College Vikings played host to the No. 4 Golden West College Rustlers in the Hall of Champions Gym for a non-conference contest. The match was high energy with bragging rights attached to every point as the Vikings defeated the cross town rival Rustlers 3-1 with set scores reading 25-15, 23-25, 25-19, and 25-15.
The Vikings buckled up in the driver's seat for the majority of the opening set after sophomore middle Elia Mama (Moreno Valley, CA) tied up the contest at 2-all with a thunderous kill. After a number of Rustler miscues, freshman outside Cyrus Fa'alogo (Salt Lake City, UT) notched his first kill of the contest leading to a Rustler's timeout.
Freshman opposite Noah Taitano (Carson, CA) chipped in on the action after exiting the timeout with a kill, backed by another hammer from Fa'alogo. Sophomore outside Travis O'Gorman (East Northport, NY) got hot quick by sending a pair of kills to the hardwood. Mama continued to add to the mix by notching another kill, backed by a solo stuff from Taitano leading to another GWC timeout with the Vikings up 15-9.
Sophomore setter Jayce Ashment (Gilbert, AZ) showed off his arsenal by notching a solo block and then teamed up with sophomore middle Eli Garcia (Bellflower, CA) for a block assist. O'Gorman sealed the deal in the first set by firing home a kill to take the first set, 25-15.
The second set was not as forgiving, as the Vikings dropped it 25-23. Mama continued to make a huge impact by recording two huge kills, while O'Gorman and Fa'alogo recorded clutch points, but were ultimately edged.
Poor defense haunted the Vikings early in the third set, but Long Beach continued to battle. Fa'alogo put them within one point of the lead with a monstrous kill, backed by a block from Mama and sophomore setter Gary Trejo (Downey, CA). O'Gorman join Mama on the blocking front a handful of serves later to grab an early 5-4 lead.
Mama settled into a groove as the match continued by notching yet another kill to give the Vikings a two-point advantage. Taitano recorded another kill shortly after to maintain the two point lead at 9-7.
Two-consecutive digs from freshman libero David Escobedo (Los Angeles, CA) and Trejo led to another kill for Fa'alogo to maintain the Long Beach momentum. Mama was persistent go-to weapon in the middle by recording a kill followed by a block to give the Vikings a 15-13 lead.
O'Gorman provided LBCC with a spark after re-entering by notching two-consecutive kills to put Long Beach up by four points. Fa'alogo and Garcia forced a GWC timeout to axe a 6-1 run, thus leading to a 25-19 win.
Taitano ignited Long Beach in the fourth set with a kill leading to an early 5-1 lead. Fa'alogo stayed clutch and maintained the four-point lead with two kills in a row.
Fa'alogo displayed defensive prowess as well by making a spectacular dig leading to a Taitano kill. O'Gorman followed with another kill to keep the offensive train chugging. Garcia and O'Gorman continued to act as a wall in the middle by teaming up for a block leading to an 11-5 advantage
O'Gorman continued to bring the action by hammering home another kill to continue the offensive trend. Taitano followed suit with a strong kill to extend their lead. Fa'alogo took over the final moments of the contest with a block which eventually led to a set win at 25-15 and the match victory.
With the victory, the Vikings extend their winning streak to six games.
"We prepped our guys and let them know that there is going to be a little bit of pressure," said Head Coach Jonathon Charrette. "We have to be ready to adjust and not let that pressure take over our ability to focus and stay together as a team."
Resiliency was a key factor for the Vikings tonight and Charrette expressed the importance of displaying a well-balanced attack.
"It definitely makes it easier for our blockers when they are doing their jobs and our servers are doing work at the line. When we are serving aggressively, it makes it easier for us."
No. 3 Santa Monica is next up on the slate for the Vikings and they are ready for another top-five challenge.
"We need to continue to get better every day. Our grit was tested today and we got better with that."
The Vikings (9-3) will open conference play on Friday, March 17 to face off against No. 3 Santa Monica on the road at 6 p.m.