COD Beach Volleyball pairs grab huge upsets at CCCAA State Finals

COD Beach Volleyball pairs grab huge upsets at CCCAA State Finals

The Beach Volleyball pairs team of sophomore Ashtyn Lyneis (Palm Springs H.S.) and freshman Kelsey Smith (Delta, BC South Delta Secondary) wedged their way into the Sweet 16 and then grabbed multiple upsets on their way to winning the third place medal at the 2019 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Beach Volleyball Pairs State Championship.

They came in as the lowest seed in the lowest pool at the pairs championship on May 10th and fought their way to the Final 4. Ranked the 15th seeded team out of the South and placed in "Pool 8" of eight pools of four teams, the "One's" team from Desert had a hard road ahead of them. How they got there was just as impressive.

At "Day One" of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (PCAC) Championships, the Lyneis-Smith team saw three of their five Desert teams get bounced in the first round and by the second round, they were the only Roadrunners left standing to see "Day Two" on April 26th. When they arrived on "Day Two," they were greeted with a quick and frustrating loss to the #2 ranked team in the Conference, falling to the pairs team from the MiraCosta Spartans, 21-8 and 21-11. The MiraCosta victory would be short lived as the "Two's" team from the Grossmont Griffins would immediately knock out the Spartans in the Conference Semifinal, with the Griffins eventually winning the PCAC Title.

While the Roadrunners team failed to qualify for the playoffs, Desert would be represented at the Southern California Regionals on May 3rd by the Lyneis-Smith team, which grabbed a #7 seed out of the PCAC, which equaled a #25 seed in SoCal. The Roadrunners would have to open up against the #2 team from the Western State Conference and the #8 seed in SoCal, the "One's" team from the Ventura Pirates.

Desert would open up the SoCal Regional Final by sinking the Pirates in a stunner, 21-15 and 21-16, moving on to face another seafaring vagabond as a mascot, the Vikings of Long Beach City in the second round. The Roadrunners would have to take on the #3 team from the South Coast Conference and the #9 seed in SoCal, the "One's" team from Long Beach City, falling by an unrecorded score. On the Consolation side of the bracket, the Lyneis-Smith team had to face elimination against the "Two's" team from Long Beach City, #4 team from the South Coast Conference and the #16 seed in SoCal, falling 21-15 and 21-14.

In order to determine a winner amongst the multiple teams that had a 1-2 record on the first day of the SoCal Regional Final, it came down to a coin flip, with only 20 pairs from the South qualifying to participate in the CCCAA Pairs State Championship. Desert would "flip for it" with the "Two's" team from the El Camino Warriors, #2 team from the South Coast Conference and the #5 seed in SoCal, the winner would secure the #13 seed at the State Finals, the loser the #15 seed.

Either way, both teams would qualify for the CCCAA Pairs State Championship, but the Roadrunners lost the toss, yet still secured their highest seed going into a State Finals in program history.

One week after the SoCal Regional Final, the Lyneis-Smith team found themselves at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (CVTC), home to the former Olympic Training Center, for the 2019 CCCAA Beach Volleyball Pairs State Championship. The day before, on Thursday afternoon, the Grossmont Griffins had won the team state title over the Long Beach Vikings. On Friday morning, representatives from 18 different colleges filtered into the CVTC give it their best shot at a Pairs Title. Desert joined seven other schools who had brought only one pairs team to the event, but the Roadrunners were well represented in the spectator section.

As a member of the host Conference of the event, Desert joined the other five member schools of having the responsibility of working as scoreboard operators on the six competition courts at the CVTC. Midway through the morning wave of participants, the Roadrunners started to filter in, exuberant and focused, the Lyneis-Smith team were ready.

The organizational chaos of opening a State Championship tournament had started to subside halfway through the morning wave and the afternoon wave would begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. with Desert starting their quest for glory on Court 6 against the against the #3 team from the Western State Conference and the #6 seed in SoCal, the "Two's" team from the Ventura Pirates.

Desert would open up the Pairs State Championship by once again sinking the Pirates in a stunner, 21-15 and 22-20, moving on to face the Feather River Golden Eagles in the second round. The Roadrunners would have to take on the #3 team from NorCal, from the Big 8 Conference, the "One's" team from Feather River on Court 6, falling in a hard fought match, 23-21 and 21-19.

In desperate need of a win, with their backs against the wall and a match to play, the Roadrunners received a 2 minute break and then were given a 10 minute warm-up period to determine whether they went home or stayed to compete on Championship Saturday. Facing off with a Cabrillo Seahawks team which was in an identical position, but had defeated Feather River already, Desert needed this match on Court 4. The Seahawks were seeded the #11 team from NorCal, only 12 pairs teams from NorCal qualified, Cabrillo was facing the lowest seeded team in their pool from SoCal and the Seahawks looked to exploit that opportunity, but support for the Roadrunners started to surround the court.

All of the Desert players who had been occupied with scoreboard duty the previous two matches were now rotated out and ran to Court 4 to support the Lyneis-Smith team in their "Do-Or-Die" third match. The Roadrunners players, fans and even a few PCAC opponents were loud and proud in their support of Desert moving on to Saturday. The boisterous encouragement carried the day, as the Roadrunners demolished the Cabrillo "Three's" team, 21-9 and 21-16.

Championship Saturday started right at 10 a.m. and with a few upsets already under their belt, how many more would the Lyneis-Smith team have left? The Roadrunners would have to take the #3 team from the Orange Empire Conference and the #5 seed in SoCal, the "One's" team from the Riverside City Tigers on Court 2. Desert would push around their intra-County rivals, winning the match, 21-15 and 21-17.

From the Sweet 16 onto the Elite 8, as Desert would have to take on the #2 team from NorCal, from the Big 8 Conference, the "One's" team from the Sierra Wolverines on Court 3. The Roadrunners would once again, win big, 21-16 and 21-18.

With one win away from making an appearance in the Championship Final, having played more Beach Volleyball in two days than most play in a month, and facing a Grossmont Griffins team that had played three additional matches than the Roadrunners had, it looked like Desert had even odds going into the Final 4 match with the Griffins "Two's" team. Grossmont had played and won the team championship on Thursday, plus the three matches that everyone played on Friday and then two more matches to get to this point. This is the same Griffins "Two's" team that had won the PCAC Title two weeks prior, but due to the exhaustion of such a deep playoff run for both pairs teams and the roll the Roadrunners were on, it was anyone's guess as to who would make it out alive in this match.

Back onto Court 2, the Lyneis-Smith team dropped a hammer onto the Griffins, punishing Grossmont early and often, forcing the Griffins into a time out, where the fans could clearly hear the Grossmont coach comment to her team, "do you even want to play today?" The Roadrunners were playing at a level no one had seen prior and they apparently had peaked at the right time, giving the Griffins a fight they had not seen the entire season, not just from Desert, but from any opponent all season.

Desert leapt out to a 10-4 lead, holding that lead at the second turn 14-8, then the Griffins snapped to and tied the game quickly, turning the match into a real heavyweight battle between the upstart Roadrunners and the top seed, Grossmont. No effort was spared as both teams reached match point multiple times, only to be turned away.

The Griffins held a 20-19 lead, then Desert tied it, then the Roadrunners took a 21-20 lead and Grossmont tied it. The Griffins would take a 24-23 lead and then Desert tied the game at 24-24, it was at that moment, the Roadrunners had given all they could and could not fight back any longer. That score of 24-24, represented the end of a run, having punched well above their weight (to use a boxing reference) the entire tournament, the Lyneis-Smith team would fall just short, 26-24 in the first set. Falling in a hard fought second set 21-17.

The sense of pride those in attendance felt, along with the Lyneis-Smith team, was immeasurable. This was not only a stunning roll to a bronze medal, this run was an emphatic statement, so much so, top tier teams at the CCCAA level and 4-year schools in attendance, now want to play Desert in matches in 2020 because of this run. This performance will have long lasting positive benefits for the Beach Volleyball program at College of the Desert.

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Information & Story provided by COD Sports Information. Photo by VonCile Graham.