Payne, Donatucci Shine as Warriors Outlast Santa Monica in Conference Opener

Payne, Donatucci Shine as Warriors Outlast Santa Monica in Conference Opener

TORRANCE, Calif. – Connor Payne was brilliant and Matthew Donatucci matched his teammate's production as El Camino College opened Western State Conference action with a 3-2 (25-17, 19-25, 25-23, 27-29, 15-13) victory Friday night at the ECC South Gym.

Payne and Donatucci led the Warriors (7-3, 1-0) with 17 kills apiece with Payne pacing the team with a .333 attacking percentage. Joseph Sico dished out 44 assists with nine digs and two blocks while Noah Carrol, Donatucci and Cruz Padilla all tallied four blocks on the night. As a team, the Warriors recorded 19 blocks (3 solo) including one on the final play of the match from Payne to secure the victory.

For the Corsairs (5-5, 0-1), Andrew Dalmada led all players with 24 kills and a .372 attacking percentage with Vecas Lewin adding 21 kills and five blocks. Hunter Douglas was one of two players with a double-double, dishing out 56 assists with 12 digs.

The teams split the first two sets with each squad leading wire-to-wire. From the third set on, the match was incredibly close as 25 of the 26 ties in the match came in the last three frames while all nine lead changes took place in the final three sets.

In the third, Donatucci was flawless as he slammed down seven kills on 12 swings without an error in the frame, offsetting the fabulous output from Lewin for the Corsairs as he also slammed down seven kills with one error on 10 swings. Payne added four of his kills in the third and, after five ties and three lead changes, Donatucci's seventh kill of the set secured the narrow victory and a 2-1 lead in the match for ECC.

The fourth set was almost the last of the match as the Warriors had three match points with a 24-21 lead. But two straight ECC errors followed by a Dalmada kill knotted things up and forced overtime. The Warriors had two more match points but the Corsairs continued to fight them off and then a kill from Dalmada made it 28-27 for SMC and an attack from Donatucci went wide to secure the set for the Corsairs and force a deciding set.

In the fifth, the game stayed close with seven ties early on and a couple of lead changes. The Warriors held a 6-4 lead but the Corsairs went on a 6-0 run to take a 10-6 lead and seemingly take the momentum. But the Warriors fought back, trimming the deficit and eventually catching Santa Monica at 12-12. With the score tied at 13, Payne took over as he smacked a kill to give ECC another match point. This time, the Warriors would not squander it as Payne and Carrol set the block and Lewin's attempt was sent right back by Payne and just inside the line on the far side to give the Warriors the important conference win.

The Warriors will return to action Wednesday as they host Santiago Canyon at the ECC South Gym. First serve is set for 6 p.m.