The No. 2 ranked Brahmas had the Rustlers from Golden West College seeing red Saturday, Nov. 26, as they took the second round regional playoff match in straight sets, moving on to the state championships.
Golden West College, ranked No. 13 in the state and No. 7 in Southern California, came out to Ken Stanley Court ready to play and looking for an upset against the Brahmas. The Rustlers had a strong defensive presence that Pierce hadn’t seen this season.
“We haven’t seen a team that digs so many balls like that. I give them a lot of credit,” head coach Nabil Mardini said. “They put pressure on us with their defense, but we put a lot of pressure on them with our serving, and our offense and our setting.”
The match began back and forth with both sides trading small leads to start the first set. Pierce began to pull away slightly midway through the set taking a 19-13 lead, but the Rustlers clawed their way back to within one, 20-19. The Brahmas would hold set point at 24-20 before taking it 25-23.
Pierce seized control of the second set from the start and never let go, winning 25-15.
“In the middle [of the first set] is where you really start to see us sort of fall out of our rhythm,” freshman Cassidy Rosso said. “We got back into it at the end to close that set and then we used that momentum to start off the second set.”
The third and final set began much like the first. The two teams traded points back and forth. Golden West College held a 10-9 lead before the Brahmas busted loose and took a commanding 20-11 lead.
The Rustlers weren’t ready to just ride home that easily, battling back to within 2 points, 23-21, before Pierce would finally put away the third set 25-22.
The CCCAA State Championships are the next stop, and the Brahmas won’t have far to go. Pierce hosts the tournament which begins Saturday, Dec. 3.
The four top teams from Northern California and Southern California will meet in the two-day tournament.
“All the motivation is right there,” Boykin said. “At home, state, another banner, and we don’t want a repeat from last year’s state final.”
Last year’s state final that Boykin refers to saw the Brahmas finish second, falling to the Cabrillo College Seahawks in the championship game.
Those same Seahawks are the No. 4 team in the state, No. 1 in Northern California, coming into this year’s postseason, and the Brahmas could collide with them in the semifinal round.
The advantage of being at Ken Stanley Court could be a key factor in this year’s state championship for Pierce.
“We want to be at home. We’re good at home,” Mardini said. “It’s going to be a comfort thing. Just being at home, hopefully bringing back the trophy on our home court.”
Comfort at home is something Mardini may not know for a while. His wife had a child Wednesday, and there’s a question whether the game or baby kept him up more.
“It’s a combination of both,” Mardini said. “But I’m going to get a good night’s sleep tonight.”
The Brahmas’ quarterfinal matchup will be Saturday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. versus Sierra College from Northern California, followed by the semifinal the same day at 7 p.m. The championship game will be on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. All games are at Ken Stanley Court.