LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Perhaps it was inevitable that after breezing through the easiest first game it's had all season, the La Cañada High girls' volleyball team's intensity would wane.
Just maybe, though, it was ultimately for the best that visiting Paramount took advantage of that lull to rise from the canvas and push the Spartans a bit in their CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoff opener Tuesday night before La Cañada composed itself for a 25-5, 25-20, 25-15 victory.
"Definitely, because each team's going to get harder [in the playoffs]," Spartans outside hitter Micaela Anderson said of her team being better off after getting more of a test against the Pirates. "We can't take anyone lightly, we have to come out strong. It's nice to have more competition, though, to see what's coming next."
Anderson had eight kills, Lauren Streeter added six and Taylor Page finished with four aces to help send the Spartans (17-11) to a second-round match Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Arroyo Grande, which had a first-round bye.
For a while, it looked the Spartans would be able to take a day off Tuesday, as well, when Paramount (14-9) was bulldozed in short order in the first game. After surrendering the first point of the match, La Cañada went off on a 19-1 run, with Page serving for 14 of the points.
"Too easy," La Cañada Coach Brock Turner said of the first game. "We were trying to figure out was it some of us playing good ball or was it them being just nervous and I think it was just a combination.
"I just had that feeling we were going to come out flat [in the second game]."
Seven points into the second game, the Pirates had already equaled their entire scoring output from the first game and led, 5-2. It was more than a flash in the pan, as Paramount maintained a six-to-seven-point cushion to the point at which it led, 17-10, while the Spartans struggled with service and hitting errors.
"We didn't come out as fired up, like in the first game," Anderson said. "I think we had a lot more chemistry in the first game and we weren't expecting them to come out and play defense and get balls up, but they did and I think we were kind of like shocked almost."
The Pirates missed on their next serve, giving the ball to Megan Swartzlander, who served the Spartans to a six-point run. Leigh Sclafani sparked the run with a tip for a kill, followed by a block, and Streeter and Anderson kept it going with consecutive kills.
Paramount got the lead back at 18-17 one more time on a kill, but then committed three straight errors to give the Spartans the lead for good. Anderson began the run to the finish with an ace and Streeter added a kill down the stretch of the second game.
"We started off slow, but after the timeout we started playing more as a team and I think it carried over to the third game," Anderson said. "I think we've played better matches. I thought we played well, but that second game was kind of a throw, but we came back and that shows that we can come back and win, which is exciting."
Anderson had three more kills in the third game, where the Spartans never trailed, and Kendall Walbrecht notched kills on three of La Cañada's final four points.
"[We want] to be tested, but doing the skills properly," Turner said. "We were missing serves, we were doing things at the net I haven't seen all year, so I wasn't real pleased in the technical part.
"It does happen when you win a game, 25-5, but championship teams just keep playing and they play at a higher level. That's what we have to find out and we'll be tested on Thursday to the limit."