PROVIDENCE HIGH — As season openers go, there were certainly plenty of gaffes, a lack of communication and much room for improvement for both the visiting St. Monica Academy and Providence High girls' volleyball teams as the squads met Tuesday afternoon.
Yet, Tuesday also provided scenarios in which both teams surrendered and accrued large leads and mounted late rallies in what was a Crusaders' 25-23, 25-16, 26-24 victory at the Fritz B. Burns Student Activities Center.
"This was a big win for us, especially to go three straight against an upper-divisional opponent at their place," St. Monica Coach Darren Bradley said. "This a great confidence booster. Providence knew we came in ranked No. 1 and to get this win is great."
The Crusaders entered the contest top-ranked in Division V-A in the CIF Southern Section's preseason poll and looked the part of a top seed through the first two games, thanks in part to the adroit hitting of senior Caitlin Hall, who led all players with 22 kills.
Yet, St. Monica ran into a resurgent Pioneers' squad in the third game.
Providence, in fact, raced out to an 8-3 advantage behind three kills from senior Janel Andreneda and maintained its five-point advantage until 21-16.
That's when the Crusaders netted six of the next seven points to tie the score at 22 on a kill from senior outside hitter Monica Golbranson through Andreneda's block attempt.
St. Monica then took its first lead of the game on an ace from senior setter Kristen Gates.
With momentum against it, Providence scored the next two points, on a service error and ace from Andreneda, to hit game-point at 24-23.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, the Crusaders launched the match's final rally, scoring the last three points on consecutive kills from Hall.
"We don't have that type of player like [Hall] and hopefully we'll find one on this team," Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. "I think we defensed her pretty well, especially with our back row. She just eventually wore us down."
St. Monica took its turn building a big advantage in the first game when the Crusaders rallied from a 14-10 deficit with a pivotal 9-1 run fueled by three kills from Hall and four Pioneers' errors.
Up, 20-15, St. Monica nearly surrendered its lead as Providence pushed back and climbed within 22-21 on a kill from Andreneda off a dig try from Christa Nuno.
Just as Providence pulled close, though, St. Monica closed with a 3-0 run capped by a game-clinching attacking error courtesy of the Pioneers.
"This win feels pretty good. I think we're a lot better team defensively and that's because of some of the clinics we attended," Hall said. "Our passing wasn't quite there today, but we have time to work on that."
Only the second game proved non-competitive, as the Crusaders scored 12 of the first 15 points in rolling to a 25-16 win.
Other than Hall, Golbranson added four kills and two aces and Anna Goodwin also contributed two aces.
Andreneda and Bea Yosuico paced the Pioneers with seven kills and one ace apiece, while Jennifer Andreneda added four kills and one ace and Olivia Menske totaled two blocks.