TORRANCE, Calif. – Coming into Tuesday night's California Community College Women's Volleyball Southern California Regional Playoff opener, No. 3 seeded El Camino College had played just four matches that required more than three sets. The Warriors needed to put in some extra work against No. 14 Fullerton, fading an upset bid by the Hornets with a 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-16, 23-25, 15-6) victory at the ECC South Gym.
The Warriors (22-3) will now face MiraCosta in round two on Saturday night with a trip to the CCCAA State Championships on the line. The No. 6 Spartans had a five-setter of their own Tuesday, edging No. 11 Moorpark.
In the Warriors win, sophomore Phina Leilua had a career night as she posted 30 kills and 17 digs to pace ECC while committing just six errors on 77 swings (.312), collecting her ninth double-double of the year. Meris Ewell chipped in with 14 kills and a match high six blocks while Renee Brydon added 11 kills on a .529 attacking percentage (11-2-17). Kelly Donatucci was all over the floor with a match high 35 digs while Keri Isara (32) and Caitlin Donatucci (29) dished out 61 of the team's 70 assists, setting the team to a collective .286 attacking percentage.
For the Hornets (15-8), Amanda Henderson put forth an excellent effort with 25 kills and 18 digs with Lauren Schaefer and Andrea Lopez each adding 10 kills on the night.
For a team that lost just 11 total games during the season and never trailed by a set in any of their wins, the Warriors had to climb their way up after dropping a close opening set 25-23. The Warriors led 16-9 at one point in the frame but a furious 8-0 run from the Hornets gave the visitors the lead. The Hornets would take a 24-20 lead but the Warriors fought off three of the four set points before a ball-handling error by Ewell gave the Hornets the opening frame.
The second set was another tight affair as the teams were tied seven times and exchanged the lead on four occasions. The Warriors were outhit .279 to .268 as the Hornets committed only one error in the frame. But ECC's firepower proved too much as the Warriors posted 20 kills in the frame, nine of them coming from Leilua including the set-clinching point to knot things up at 1-1.
In the third, the Warriors used a 6-0 scoring run to turn a 14-13 advantage into a six-point cushion and went on to cruise the rest of the way for a 2-1 lead. Leilua blasted seven more of her kills in that set without an error while Donatucci recorded nine digs.
Both teams returned to some back-and-forth action in the fourth set, trading the lead eight times with 13 ties. The Hornets held the biggest lead of the frame at 19-16 but the Warriors simply responded with four straight points to retake the lead.
The score remained close until Carlie Ortega recorded two straight aces to seal the set for Fullerton and send the match to a fifth and final set.
During the season, two of the Warriors' three losses came in five-set matches, the only five setters the team played all year. But there would be no trouble for ECC in this match as the Warriors attacked at a .526 clip in the frame and used an 8-0 scoring run to turn a 6-5 lead into nine match points.
After the Hornets fought one off, Brydon finished things off for ECC with her 11th kill of the night and third of the fifth set to clinch the win.
The Warriors will face the Spartans Saturday at 6 p.m. Both teams faced off at the ECC South Gym on September 12 with the Warriors scoring a 3-1 win in that match.