GLENDALE — The Liberty League match Tuesday between Providence High and Glendale Adventist Academy meant inherently more to the Pioneers than the Cougars.
With just one league victory going in, Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said it was a match his team had to win if it hoped to keep its postseason aspirations alive.
On the other hand, with no league wins, the Cougars were hoping to pull off an upset.
Although Glendale Adventist played well in the first two games of the afternoon, the Pioneers’ experience was too much for the hosts to overcome, as Providence went on to notch a 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 win.
“I had talked to the team about how important getting a win in this one was,” said Eggleston, whose team is 3-7, 2-2 in league. “It’s something that we’ve gone over several times. The players know what this meant for us trying to make the playoffs.”
This is just the second season the Cougars (2-9, 0-5) have been members of the Liberty League. Although the squad took its lumps last season and didn’t win a match, the program is showing signs of improvement. That improvement isn’t lost on Cougar Coach Bianka Tulgar, as well as other coaches in league like Eggleston.
“They are head and shoulders above what we expected them to be as a team,” Eggleston said. “They have really improved from last season and they gave us more of a battle than we thought they would.”
Said Tulgar: “Since we didn’t get any wins last year, I think a lot of teams don’t expect us to be any good. But this team has been improving, and we expect to get even better during the rest of the season.”
The Cougars have a standout player in junior outside hitter Andrea Blake. Blake led all players with 13 kills.
However, that wasn’t enough to lift Glendale Adventist.
The most pivotal point in the match came late in the second game. With the score tied at 23, Providence hit the ball long and it appeared the Cougars would have a match-point situation. But the referee ruled that a Glendale Adventist player clipped the net, giving the point to the Pioneers. Providence ended the game on a kill by Thalia Alvarez.
Alvarez paced the Pioneers with nine kills and six aces. Teammate Jessica Mendoza added eight kills and Bea Yosuico had five.
Providence got into trouble in the first two games by committing a rash of unforced errors. The Pioneers had 13 unforced errors in the first game and 16 in the second game.
“Unforced errors … it’s a hurdle,” Eggleston said. “We don’t have the size, so I think we tend to over-swing a little bit and we also try to over-jump on balls. That is something that we’ve got to work on and get better at.”
As a result, the Cougars were able to jump out to identical 4-0 leads in the first two games. But Glendale Adventist couldn’t keep up the pressure, as Providence overcame deficits in both games to take a 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers played better in the third game, surging out to a 6-1 lead. They increased the advantage to nine at 14-5 before the Cougars cut the deficit to four at 18-14. But Cougars errors down the stretch helped Providence complete the sweep.
“We have to get better at closing out games,” Tulgar said. “We have been in a lot of close games where we’ve lost because we just can’t close them out.”