Across the street from a sandy Santa Barbara beach, the Brahmas (5-1, 13-5) kept their California dreams of a state title alive with a victory over the Santa Barbara Community College Vaqueros (2-4, 5-13).
They now head into the postseason as the No. 5 seed.
The Brahmas needed a victory in the season finale to ensure the Western State Conference – North title and a spot in playoffs. With their home court’s namesake, Ken Stanley, in attendance Pierce responded with a three-set sweep of the Vaqueros (25-23, 25-18, 25-15).
“I’m real proud to see we’re meshing in our system and meshing in what we’re doing as a team,” head coach Lance Walker said. “And it’s always great to have the godfather himself, Ken Stanley, at our game, especially for this win.”
The Brahmas were led by setter Bernardo Roese’s 40 assists. Roese came into the match as the state’s leader in assists per set, and saw his average increase to 12.54, nearly 2 assists ahead of the next man.
Making an impact with those assists from Roese were Brandon Oswalt with 14 kills and Trenton Sellers with 13. Oswalt and Sellers are one and two in the conference when it comes to kills per set with 3.93 and 3.46 respectively.
“The last couple games have been really good for us regardless of what the opponent has done,” Sellers said. “It’s been all about us and what we’re doing as a team and our energy.”
Libero Blake Omartian feels the end of the regular season was a chance for the Brahmas to prepare mentally.
“It’s obvious we have the physical aspects we need to do well in the state tournament,” Omartian said. “The games leading up to it are more for us to work on our mental game.”
The Brahmas now have a date with the No.4 Santa Monica College Corsairs (2-4, 13-5) on Friday at Santa Monica in a quarterfinal matchup. A matchup Walker refers to as the “405 dirty matchup.”
According to Walker, the Brahma roots run deep in this game, even on the other sideline. Santa Monica head coach Jackson Meticchechia played at Pierce, and Corsairs setter Hunter Douglas’ father coached Walker.
Pierce will have its hands full with the Corsairs. Not only did the Brahmas lose in straight sets (29-27, 25-19, 25-18) on March 1 in the two teams only matchup, but Santa Monica is the only blemish on the record of No. 1 Orange Coast College (6-0,18-1).
“We have to look at what kind of lineup we’re going to want to use,” Walker said. “What worked and didn’t work against them. I think Jackson’s quote at the end of the game was like ‘that was probably the worst game you guys ever played.’ And I’m alright with that.”
The Brahmas have responded when they needed to at the end of the season. Victories in their final two games were critical to capturing the conference title, and with it an automatic bid in the eight-team playoff.
“We want to be the best at the end of the season and right now we feel we’re flowing and we understand what’s going on,” Walker said. “Everything we need to do on our end is working, psychologically and physically.”
A victory Friday will give the Brahmas home court advantage, with Pierce hosting the semifinals and finals of the state championship April 27 and 29.
“It comes down to we want to win when it matters, and it matters now,” Walker said. “It doesn’t matter what our record is. We win we come home and continue to play. We lose we’re out. I think that’s the fun part of the season.”
“The guys are dialed in,” Walker said. “We’re preparing as a coaching staff. The alumni, even other sports on campus are already getting fired up. It’s a pretty exciting time for everybody, and for Pierce right now.”
The matchup against SMC is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. A victory will set the Brahmas up in the semifinals against the winner of the match between No. 1 Orange Coast College and No. 8 Grossmont College.