Posted: Jun 30, 2020
IRVINE - Long-time and legendary Irvine Valley volleyball coach Tom Pestolesi is retiring as a full-time faculty member at the college and is stepping down from his duties after a storied career as the women's indoor coach with the Lasers.
He has coached at Irvine Valley for 21 years and has guided the men's indoor, women's indoor and women's beach program. Pestolesi has been such a big part of IVC volleyball, but has been helping develop, guide and share the love of the sport in Orange County for decades.
Pestolesi, who has captured two state titles with the women's indoor team and three with the men's indoor team, will continue as the head coach of IVC's women's beach squad next spring. His squad captured the innagural California Community College Athletic Association state title in beach in 2015.
He is the only coach in California Community College state history to win a state championship in men's indoor, women's indoor and women's beach volleyball and has more than 500 wins combined for men's and women's indoor volleyball at Irvine Valley.
Pestolesi guided the women's volleyball team for 21 seasons and had an amazing overall record of 377-105.
"Of course the best part is all the great kids that have gone through IVC," Pestolesi said. "It all started with my original seven players in that first year with Amanda Martinez, Sarah Pelzel, Anjie Crilly, Mika Kinoshita, Nicole Nosces, January Olds, Michelle Lamott (Speraw). That first team went 9-9 and was a blast to coach.
"It feels good to have helped develop the Irvine Valley men's, women's and beach programs in to some of the best in the state year in and year out. We were a school that as off the radar at first and now we are well known as a school that moves our players on to continue their careers at the four-year level."
Pestolesi has been a fixture with volleyball at Irvine Valley since the start of the men's program in 1991.
The college, his student-athletes, assistant coaches and colleagues have been better for it.
The Irvine Valley women's program has had its best stretch over the last three years under his guidance. The team went 75-3 over that span, won three straight Orange Empire Conference titles and made three trips to the CCCAA State Championships.
The 2017 team won the program's second state championship, finishing with a perfect record of 27-0. The squad lost just eight sets all season. IVC was led by Olivia Aguilar (Cal State San Marcos), Megan Ramseyer (Butler), Taira Ka'awaloa (Hawaii Hilo), Diamond Brogan and Gabi Lau (Western New Mexico). IVC also received big contributions from Alyssa Vortouni (Grand Canyon), Alma Entesari and Renata Bath (UC Riverside).
And in Pestolesi's final season with the women's indoor program in 2019, the Lasers went 27-1 with the only loss coming in five sets in the state championship match. Lea Kruse and Kristin Austin were named co-most valuable players of the OEC and Austin (headed to Cal State Fullerton) was selected as an All-American.
Irvine Valley won its other state title in 2014 with another perfect mark of 27-0. The squad dropped just seven sets all season and just five total to community college opponent behind Orange Empire Conference player of the year and two-time, Two-Year College National Player of the Year Annie Mitchem (University of Hawaii and professional player now).
Five players from that team signed with four-year schools, including Mitchem, Marisa Doran (New Mexico), Hailey Jones (San Diego State), Shaelyn Perez (UC San Diego) and Carleigh Petersen (Gordon College).
Irvine Valley also finished second in the state in 2003.
Pestolesi has been named the Orange Empire Conference coach of the year eight times and the conference's overall women's sport coach of the year twice. He was also chosen as the regional coach of the year for community colleges by the AVCA in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
"I couldn't do any of it without the staff that I have worked with," he said. "They have been the best. (Athletic trainer) Janet Olsen has been there for our players since day one. Dean and Athletic Director Keith Shackleford has been so supportive with all that we do. Of course winning titles are a high, but almost every season has been a wonderful journey.
"Having the players recognized for their accomplishments on and off the court makes me more proud than anything. And all of my assistants over the years are still such great friends.
"It started with my good friend Celso Kalache in 1992. Then Gary Nakamura, Stephanie Gandara, Rachel Scott, Elaina Oden, Misty May (former IVC women's assistant and Long Beach City women's coach), Jay Hosack (head men's coach at George Mason), Ki Yi (former IVC men's coach), Eric Olsen (Athletic Director at Crean Lutheran High), Kari Pestolesi (Hemmerling), Butch May, Mike Cram (IVC assistant indoor and beach), Kaleo Baxter (Hawaii assistant coach), Ryan Windisch (IVC men's head volleyball coach), Cole Murray (Northwood High volleyball coach), David Grandy, Kobi Peckich, Marisa Doran, Hannah Matt (IVC assistant beach coach) and Lauren Hess (Irvine Valley assistant coach) just to name some of all of the great people and coaches that have helped with all that we do at Irvine Valley along the way.
"They have made our teams so much better. I hope the players enjoyed their experience at IVC as students and athletes. I certainly enjoyed having the opportunity and honor to be their coach. Creating a family atmosphere has been another of the things I have been most proud of and I believe everyone in the program felt the sense of that."
Pestolesi was the head coach of the men's program at Irvine Valley for 17 seasons and finished with a career record of 194-105.
His final season on the men's side was in 2018. Pestolesi led the program to state titles in 1993, 2007 and 2008.
He was honored by being named to the California Community College Men's Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in the spring of 2016.
The women's beach volleyball program has been a success under Pestolesi from the very start at Irvine Valley. The Lasers started playing as a club program in "sand volleyball" in 2012, taking on four-year schools.
And in the spring of 2015 when beach volleyball became an official CCCAA sport, IVC captured the inaugural championship and all three pairs titles on its home courts.
Doran and Kobi Pekich won the No. 1 state pairs title, Mitchem and Emily Reinking took the No. 2 pairs title and Samantha Holdredge and Hailee Earnest took the No. 3 pairs title.
In 2016, Irvine Valley's top pair of Reinking and Earnest won the Pairs State Championship at Grossmont College.
And in 2018, IVC's No. 1 pair of Ramseyer and Ka'awaloa also won the Pairs State Championship at West Valley College.
The pair of Kruse and Bath finished third in 2019 in Chula Vista.
Several players, including Allie Cook (Arizona), Pekich (Long Beach State), Doran (New Mexico), Hannah Matt (Long Beach State), Reinking (Grand Canyon) and Alyssa Vortouni (Grand Canyon) have moved on from Irvine Valley to play beach volleyball at four-year, Division I schools, under Pestolesi.
This year, Pestolesi had five more of his beach players sign or commit to DI schools in Kruse (Hawaii), Kendall Nolan (Portland), Anna Unke (Cal State Bakersfield), Alaina Gendale (Cal State Bakersfield) and Alaina Thomas (Oregon).
Irvine Valley reached the state championship in both 2018 and 2019, finishing tied for third in 2019.
"Pesto has been so good technically (with volleyball) as seen in the number of championships, but even better because he has been amazing at building relationships," said Shackleford, IVC's Dean and Athletic Director. "His love of the game and caring for others drew the volleyball community to him, and has been the basis for all of his teams' and players' achievements."
Many of his former outstanding IVC players have gone on to have successful volleyball careers, including Mitchem, who starred at Hawaii and is now a star playing professionally in Italy and been a part of the USA program. He has had several others on both the men's and women's side play at the professional level in Europe with dozens having played in pro leagues both indoor and on the beach during his career.
But he has done just as much off the court in leadership and with student-athlete success at Irvine Valley.
Pestolesi's women's teams have compiled a cumulative grade point average above 3.00 in 20 of the last 21 semesters and have been named IVC Scholar-Team of the Year six times. His men's teams achieved the 3.0 mark 12 times in 17 terms through 2018.
He has also had four student-athletes named the Orange Empire Conference Character Champion, the most of any coach, at any college in the OEC.
He is literally the founder and driving force behind the CCCAA Beach Volleyball Championships. Pestolesi has served in leadership positions in both the Men's and Women's volleyball coaches association and was the Founder of the men's association and President and Treasurer for the first 26 years of its existence.
And Pestolesi is a staunch supporter of professional development. He is regularly the lead technician at coaching clinics, and has created and led the only Beach Volleyball Summits and Clinics in CCC history in 2012 and 2016. Pestolesi has also been a liaison with Kathy DeBoer and the AVCA on all issues related to beach volleyball in the CCCAA.
One of his former IVC players, Windisch (Long Beach State player and alum), who has been the head coach of the Irvine Valley men's volleyball team the past two seasons and an assistant with the women's squad for the last several years, will take over the reigns of the indoor womens volleyball team at IVC. Windisch helped lead the IVC men's squad to a runner-up finish in the CCAA State Championships in 2019.
Windisch has always looked up to and tried to learn as much as possible from Pestolesi.
"The main reason that I wanted to get into coaching at the junior college level was because of Tom," Windisch said. "I still remember taking my recruiting trip to IVC when I was 18 and the way he talked to me is still the way he talks to kids now. His genuine passion for each and every player is remarkable. Since coming to work with him in 2018, he has taught me countless things. The most important ones are all more like life lessons, rather than anything to do with volleyball. His thoughts and values have left a huge imprint on me and will stay with me throughout my entire coaching career."
Pestolesi, who plans on continuing to be a volunteer assistant with the IVC women's indoor team, began his volleyball career at Huntington Beach High School, graduating in 1978. He then attending Long Beach State, majoring in Physical Education and competing in volleyball.
He transferred to the University of Hawaii and earned his degree in Physical Education in 1983. Pestolesi was an All-American in volleyball at Hawaii in 1982 and 1983.
He earned his Master's Degree from Long Beach State in 1989.
Pestolesi coached girls and boys volleyball for 15 years at the high school level at Estancia High and then Newport Harbor High before starting the men's volleyball program at Irvine Valley in 1991. He was hired full-time at IVC in 1998 to coach both the women's and men's volleyball teams.
Those he has coached at the high school level included John Wallace, Adam Lockwood, Todd and Brandi Brooks, Matt Feurbringer, Melissa Schultz, Misty May and Jennifer Carey.
Pestolesi has also coached professionally on the four-player pro beach tour where he coached players such as Kim Oden, Stephanie Cox, Joy Makenzie, Antonette White, Janet Cobbs and Wendy Stammer.
And Pestolesi has worked with the women's national team as the squad's Head Resident Coach and was part of the Pan American Games Staff for the United States in 2015 that won a gold medal.
Pestolesi, who has been a Kinesiology professor at Irvine Valley for 20 years is married to the former Diane Sebastian, who was a three-time All-American for the Rainbow Wahine volleyball program and they have three children; Tommy, Kari and Danny.
Tommy was a star player at Long Beach State and played overseas and Kari was an All-American player at UC Irvine and has followed in her father's coaching footsteps. She is the women's volleyball coach at Cerritos College.
(Brent Shaver, Irvine Valley College Athletics)