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Irvine Valley hoping pieces fit

Lasers, coming off an injury-plagued 2010 season, have lots of talented parts this year and hope to make deep state run.

August 13, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Special to the Daily Pilot

Irvine Valley College women's volleyball Coach Tom Pestolesi has a history of success, taking the team to the state championship tournament five times, including a third-place finish as recently as 2009.

The Lasers are coming off an injury-plagued 2010 season, going 14-7 overall and placing fourth in the Orange Empire Conference before enduring a second-round exit in the Southern California Regional playoffs.

But ask Pestolesi about pressure to return the program to state championship contention and he chuckles.

"The only pressure we have is the pressure we coaches put on ourselves," Pestolesi said, referring to his staff that includes Rich Brown, Gary Nakamura and Ki Yi. "As silly as it sounds, truly our No. 1 goal is to move them on to a good four-year school.

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"I'm a dad. I have two kids that finished college and a third who is starting college in the fall. It's all about experiences and education. As corny as it sounds, when the season is over, unless you win it all, you don't remember the games, you remember the process."

That said, Pestolesi does want to win.

The challenge Pestolesi and his coaches face is overcoming the loss of four all-conference players from last year's team, including first-team setter Christie Allen.

"What we say is that every day you want to get 1% better," Pestolesi said. "If every day you get 1% better, you're going to become pretty good. All we ask is that you come in every day and do what you're supposed to do, and you'll finish where you should finish."

The Lasers do have a talented group of returning players, as well as newcomers. Defensive specialist Sarah Mendoza, a first-team all-conference player last year as a freshman, heads the list. Also returning is Hannah Unruh, who missed the final five weeks of last season with an illness.

"Hannah has been an amazing leader during the offseason," Pestolesi said. "She's showing a great work ethic."

Katelyn Shepherd and Carleigh Mueller also return this season from last year's team.

Sofia Furlong, who redshirted last season, steps in as the Lasers' setter.

"She really athletic," Pestolesi said. "She's tall, 6 feet 1, and is just getting better and better. It's exciting, we really have great kids."

Some of the top newcomers include a group Pestolesi is calling the "A-Team" — Allie Cook, Alex Goodman and Avae' Masaniai.

Pestolesi could have included Annie Kim on the A-Team. Kim last played collegiate volleyball in 2009 at Cal State Los Angeles.

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