PASADENA — The
On Saturday, Poly took the first game from the visiting Indians, who had dropped the first game in both of their previous playoff contests before winning each in five games, before Burroughs pulled out game two, but with the Panthers operating on all cylinders there would be no comeback this time as the home team prevailed, 25-18, 24-26, 25-13, 25-16.
"That's probably our best game of the year," Poly Coach Steve Beerman said. "You could argue that's our best game of the year, but there were a couple things we could do better, but everybody was on and we were doing our stuff."
In game one, Poly (16-8) built up its advantage with the final margin of seven representing the biggest lead of the opening game. In game two, Burroughs was on the brink of a two games-to-none hole, trailing 24-22 before reeling off the game's final four points to even the match.
Two of those points came from Caitlin Cottrell (match-high 15 kills), who finished the night as her team's leader in kills with 15.
"We didn't let down," said Burroughs Coach Edwin Real, whose team is one of five to make it this far in Burroughs history. "We lost in the first game pretty quick. We came back in the second game and never gave up, kind of like the way we've been playing in the playoffs."
Panthers sophomore outside hitter Alex Clark grabbed the momentum back at the start of game three with a kill off the Indians' block. Liberos Hannah Kaufman, who was a catalyst throughout the contest with her service game and overall play, then served the next six Poly points as the hosts ran out to a 7-0 advantage.
"I kept switching [my service] up from short to deep and I think it really helped it," Kaufman said.
After that, a more extensive comeback bid by Burroughs (19-16) was put into doubt. The Panthers stoked the lead late and won going away, 25-13.
"I thought Hannah Kaufman, as our libero, did a great job. She dug everything. She served lights out and service-received well," Beerman said of his junior defensive specialist.
Game four was close at 15-13 after an ace by Indian Autumn Kanoho, but after that the Panthers scored 10 of the next 13 points to close the deal, ending with a block at the net by Heather Bruegl.
"I think we blocked well," Beerman said. "I actually think [Burroughs] had some really good hitters, but I thought we were able to match up with them with our size and it took them out of their comfort zone."
Clark was the overall leader in kills for the Panthers with 24, followed on her team by senior Cat Davidson with 11. Sophomore Dee Dee Logan also joined them in double-digits with 10 kills.
Senior Dani Smith was rock solid in her position as setter, recording 48 assists.
"The difference was that we were really mentally tough today. We really kept plugging away. We really wanted to win," Clark said.
Now waiting in the wings for Poly is a matchup with Chadwick, the Prep League champion, in the semifinals on Tuesday.
The Dolphins, who beat Arcadia, 3-0, in their quarterfinal, ended the Panthers' playoff runs each of the last two years in the Division 3-A final. They are presently ranked second in 2-A and bested Poly, 3-0, twice this season.
"[Chadwick] is going to be a real challenge for us. We played them twice and there is a reason they are the No. 2-ranked team," Beerman said of the coming semifinal showdown, "but I'm going to enjoy [this victory]. I don't think many people thought we could make it to the final four. I'm really proud of the girls and excited about how they played tonight."