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Golden West sweeps Grossmont for 2013 CCCAA State Championship

Golden West College and Grossmont College shared a Pacific Coast Athletic Conference title this season, but the California Community College Athletic Association state championship trophy belongs solely to the Rustlers after an impressive 31-29, 26-24, 25-17 victory over the Griffins in the championship final on Saturday at Long Beach City College Hall of Champions Gym.

All-State tournament most valuable player Matt Hilling provided the offense for Golden West as he totaled 18 of the Rustlers 39 kills on the night.
 
"Matt was huge for us tonight," said first-year Golden West head coach Kasey Harwell. "He was involved in every point tonight and didn't take a break. I was impressed to see he played with so much composure."
 
Hilling came up with the big plays when the Rustlers needed it most. In the opening set, the Rustlers appeared to be on their way to a hard-fought win. A Hilling kill gave GWC a 23-20 lead and the Rustlers had set point at 24-22 after a kill by Jose Ulloa.

But a Grossmont kill by Jorge Cabrera and a block by Chet Radish tied the set at 24-24. Hilling broke the tie with another kill before a GWC service error tied the score again at 25. Three points later, Tyler Kulikowski's error gave Grossmont its first lead of the set at 27-26.

Hilling once again came through with a big kill to tie up the score. The teams exchanged points before Hilling smashed his eighth kill of the set to put the Rustlers up 30-29. Cabrera's hitting error ended the set and gave the Rustlers the opening win.

The second set was another closely contested battle that saw 11 ties. This time, Grossmont led early before Golden West rallied late to steal it.
 
The Griffins were up 13-9 after a block by Frank Herrera before Golden West eventually tied things up at 15. The lead would change four times down the stretch. Grossmont was up 24-23 after a Golden West rotation error. But a pair of Griffin errors and a kill Phil Lopez gave the Rustlers the win.

Set 3 started close but a 7-3 run by Golden West turned a narrow 10-9 lead to a huge 17-12 advantage that the Griffins couldn't recover from.  A big block by Kulikowski and Ulloa gave Golden West match point before a Grossmont hitting error set off the Rustler celebration.

The state championship for Golden West was the sixth in school history and first since their impressive run of five consecutive state titles that ended in 1999.

Saturday's match marked the third time the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference foes met this season. Golden West had beaten Grossmont 3-1 at home early in the season before the Griffins evened up the series against the Rustlers with a 3-0 win at home.

"Playing them twice during the season really helped with our preparation for tonight's match," said Harwell. "But it came down to my players knowing how the stop them."
 
Lopez and Kulikowski posted six kills each for the Rustlers while DJ Koenen had six blocks. Setter Luke Pope paced the Rustlers with 32 assists. Golden West capped it championship season with a 17-4 overall record.
 
"Everybody stepped up tonight," said Harwell. "Luke set his best match of the season tonight. And we did this without our starting right side Weston Carico. It's just a testament to our team that they were able to adjust."
 
For Grossmont (13-7), Cabrera led with 14 kills. Davis Anderson had 10 kills and five digs, while Garrett Adelman had 32 assists. The Griffins hit just .093 for the match and committed 30 hitting errors. Grossmont made its second state championship final appearance in three years under head coach Travis Lee.
 
2013 All-State Tournament Team
MVP – Matt Hilling, Golden West College
Luke Pope, Golden West College
Phil Lopez, Golden West College
Jorge Cabrera, Grossmont College
Garrett Adelman, Grossmont College
Greg Utupo, Long Beach City College
Evan Bender, Los Angeles Pierce College