PASADENA — Whether experienced or green, there’s a certain truth in regards to the Pasadena Poly girls’ volleyball team and the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
When the Panthers reach the postseason, they generally stay awhile.
That held true in Tuesday evening’s CIF Southern Section Division II-A first-round playoff match, as visiting Poly overcame a shaky start and rallied to defeat Maranatha, 17-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-18.
The victory marks the fifth consecutive year the Prep League third-place Panthers (14-8) began the playoffs with a win, as Poly earned advancement to Thursday’s second round versus either Sunbelt League champion Elsinore (18-9) or Desert Valley League fourth-seed La Quinta La Quinta (11-7).
“We came out a little nervous. We were on the road for the first round. They had a noisy, rowdy crowd which made it fun, but it’s just new,” Poly veteran Coach Steve Beerman said. “I thought as the game went along, we’d get our legs and pick up the slack.”
Perhaps the turning point Tuesday came toward the end of the third game, after both squads had split the first two games.
Maranatha (12-11), the Olympic League runner-up, bounced back from an early 7-3 deficit in tying the score at 12 and eventually taking its biggest at 20-18 after a kill from senior Julianne Tyler (five kills).
The Minutemen’s lead remained at two until 22-20, when Poly mounted a final charge and scored the last five points in stealing a 25-22 victory.
Maranatha aided Poly’s comeback with three consecutive errors, as the Panthers took the lead, 23-22, before closing out with an ace from libero Hannah Kaufman and the game-clinching kill from Heather Bruegl.
“Honestly, I love to play in big crowds and I think we all become a closer team when we do,” said Kaufman (24 digs), who served within eight feet of a screaming crowd. “It really pumps us up to prove them wrong and, as coach says, to silence the gym.”
Poly rolled over the momentum from its big win in the third game and broke up a one-point game midway through the fourth with a 7-2 run in going up, 17-11, on a kill from middle blocker Alex Clark (13 kills).
Maranatha tried to make a final push and pulled within 22-18 on a Panthers attacking error.
However, Panthers sophomore outside hitter Dee Dee Logan stopped the run with a kill through a dig attempt from Minutemen setter Skylar McLeod (30 assists and nine digs) in putting the Panthers ahead, 23-18. Poly then scored the last two points in securing the win.
“I definitely think we [gained maturity],” said Logan, who finished with a match-high 14 kills. “We weren’t safer, but we played our game.”
Poly was most dominant in the first game, extending its 9-8 advantage behind a 13-4 run fueled by two of senior Cat Davidson’s match-high five blocks.
In the opening game, Maranatha had all the advantages, as the Minutemen scored six of the game’s final seven points, thanks to two kills from Kendra Logan, in winning, 25-17.
Despite the early win, the Minutemen had issues with adversity over the final three games.
“My senior class is not mentally strong and I had them believing they could beat anyone. As soon as Poly put up a front, they had some missed serves and we fell apart,” Maranatha first-year Coach Leslie Flores said. “We’ve done a lot of positive things this season, but one thing we will improve on going forward is mental toughness.”