BURBANK — The Providence boys' volleyball team had a commendable, and perhaps, unpredictably superb season conclude in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs Thursday evening.
With just one senior with postseason experience, the Pioneers grew and learned on the fly in a season that saw them overcome the inexperience to win the Liberty League championship and finish the season taking nine of the last 10 matches, including a first-round victory over California Academy of Math & Science on Tuesday.
In second-round opponent Ontario Christian, however, the Pioneers faced a team far and away superior to their regular-season opponents, and it showed in a 25-15, 25-14, 25-22 season-ending loss at Providence.
"We weren't used to it," said senior Phil Harvey, who led the team with nine kills, of the playoffs. "It's good experience, though. I wish we had those kinds of teams in our league."
Providence (16-10) succumbed to extended runs from the Knights in the first two games that would prove insurmountable. Ontario Christian (11-7), runner-up in the Ambassador League, went on a 9-1 run in the first and an 8-1 run in the second — both of which quickly turned a tightly contested game into a comfortable lead.
The Pioneers and Knights played to five ties in the opening game's first 12 points, with the final one at 6-6. Ontario Christian's potent offense eventually led to clean looks from its outside hitters and middle blocker to score seven unanswered points and prompt a Providence timeout.
The Pioneers wouldn't get closer than four points the rest of the way, however, and faced a similar fate in the second game.
A Taylor Saldana kill tied the second game at 10 — the sixth tie of the game. The Knights finished strong, though, and ended the game on a 19-5 run.
"They were siding-out on first opportunities," Pioneers Coach Josh Eggleston said. "They were effective in ball control and we had ball control insecurities. It put our hitters in unfortunate situations."
Eggleston's adjustments for the third game proved instrumental. Despite not holding a lead in the frame, the Pioneers were on the Knights' heels throughout and didn't trail by more than four points.
Harvey's fourth kill of the game cut the deficit to 24-22, but Ontario Christian clinched the victory on the next point.
Ontario Christian's Derek Van Leeuwen led the match with 10 kills and Justin Tazelaar compiled 29 assists for a Knights squad that advances to the quarterfinals.
A more experienced Providence team will look forward to next season.
"Overall, it was great playing with these guys," Harvey said. "Kieran [McGroarty], Taylor, Brandon [Reyes] and everyone all improved. I know they're going to be good for years to come."
"We've come a great deal," Eggleston said. "They worked so hard to get here, and I'm proud of how they played today. It's a good building block for next season."