BURBANK — The Providence High girls’ volleyball team couldn’t completely hide their emotions before a Prep League showdown against undefeated Pasadena Poly.
Without two key players against the reigning league champion, the Pioneers got out to a slow start as the Panthers capitalized on their successful serving abilities.
Though Providence shook off its early struggles and gained momentum in the third game, Pasadena Poly stood firm to complete the sweep, 25-11, 25-25-17, 25-22, over the host Pioneers on Tuesday.
“We told them during the warm-ups that they looked deflated already,” Providence coach James Jimenez said. “I told them that there hasn’t been any game this year where we were 100 %. We’re always missing someone, so I just told them we should get used to it.
“In the Prep League, there’s slimmer margin for errors. You can’t give them a 1-0 or 2-0 head start.”
The Pioneers (9-7, 2-4 in league) were led by sophomore outside hitter Dolce Prieto, who tallied eight kills. Providence senior outside hitter Liana Artunian added four kills and sophomore Samantha Moon contributed three kills, all in the third game.
“I feel like this always happens when we’re playing tough teams,” Prieto said. “We don’t do well in the first two sets and then in the third set we try to bring it back. I think we worked together more and our defense got better.”
Providence was without senior libero Isabella Mahan-Mesa and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Davis. Mahan-Mesa is out for the season with a torn knee ligament and Davis was out for just one match.
Pasadena Poly remains undefeated (12-0, 8-0) thanks to 13 kills from senior outside hitter Ella Mao and eight kills from senior Kate Salembier. Panthers junior Laila Ward added six kills and four blocks.
The Panthers jumped to a 9-1 lead to start he first set before the Pioneers rallied to cut the lead to 13-8. Pasadena Poly proceeded on a 9-0 scoring run on a trio of kills from Ward and four successive service aces from setter Deborah Hong to take a 22-8 lead on its way to closing out the set.
Panthers errors gave the Pioneers a 2-0 start to the second game, but the visitors embarked on a 7-0 run to take a five-point lead. Trailing by five, Providence came out of a timeout and scored four straight points to cut the lead to 15-14. But a pair of aces from Maggie Jameson and a kill from Mao down the stretch locked the second-set victory.
Prieto knocked down five kills in the third game and twice gave the Pioneers the lead, 13-12 and 17-16. Moon broke a tie at 17 to again give the hosts a one-point lead in an intense back-and-forth third set.
“We got used to how the players were playing and where to go,” Prieto said. “We switched the lineup a little bit, so we had different people passing and we had different people hitting in the front, and I think it just worked out better for us. I think if we had put that lineup in all of the games, I think we probably could have beaten them.”
With the Pioneers leading, 20-17, Pasadena Poly coach Katrina Damasco called timeout to regroup the Panthers, who came out of the break with five unanswered points to take a 22-17 lead.
“I felt like a lot of the point deficit was in our control,” Damasco said. “Those were things that we were doing. Those were our missed serves and our miscommunication, and it’s just a matter of cleaning up our volleyball. That’s exactly what I told them. We have to play our volleyball.”
The hosts battled back to tie it at 22, but Mao struck three times to complete the Panthers’ sweep.