BURBANK — It was hard to tell who was more nervous, as the Providence High girls' volleyball team opened its season Wednesday with a nonleague match against Faith Baptist.
While the Pioneers' players might have experienced some jitters in their first competition of the campaign, coach James Jimenez was also feeling the pressure. Jimenez was coaching his first match back after once heading the Providence program and leaving four years ago,
"Being gone four years and this being my first game back, I think I was more nervous than the girls," Jimenez said.
The coach and the Pioneers players were able to shake off their uneasy feelings to notch an easy win, as host Providence earned a 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 victory against the Contenders.
"It's always nice to get the first game in and get that first win in," said Jimenez, who coached for a stint at Holy Family in his time away from Providence. "I was pretty happy with the way that we played, but there are always things that I would like to see us do better."
The Pioneers are coming off a season in which they placed fourth in the Liberty League and lost in the first round of the Division IV-A playoffs. The team is young, as it features just to seniors.
Despite the youth of the team and fact that the season is just beginning, Jimenez said the Pioneers already have a rapport with one another.
"We have had about the same lineup that we had in summer, so they have been working together and they know one another," he said. "I think it's just a matter of tweaking a few things and working some things out. But I like where we are at this point."
That cohesiveness was evident in the first game against Faith Baptist, which was playing in its season opener, as well. Despite losing the first point of the stanza, the Pioneers went on a 10-1 run to take a 10-2 lead.
The Pioneers continued to play well in the first game and when Jenny Nardoni came up with a dink for a kill, Providence increased its advantage to 13-4. The Pioneers kept up the pressure and still maintained a nine-point advantage at 19-10 and was able to coast the rest of the way.
The Contenders were hampered by errors in the opening game, as they had 11 hitting errors.
"I thought we played good today and we played as a team," said Nardoni, one of the team's tri-captains who had four aces. "I thought that we hit the ball pretty well, but we need to work on our defense a little more."
Lorena Ubillus paced the Pioneers with six kills to go along with 10 digs. Teammate Nikka Adraneda added 10 digs and Fabi Jimenez added eight digs.
The second game was almost a carbon copy of the first for the Pioneers, as they lost the first point only to embark on a sustained run to take a 11-4 lead. However, unlike the first stanza, Faith Baptist fought back. With Providence leading, 18-10, the Contenders made a run of their own. They scored six straight points to only trail by two, 18-16.
"We have to learn to close out games like that," James Jimenez said. "When we got to 18 in that second game, we should have been able to finish it."
Luckily for Providence, it stopped the surge and ended the game on a 7-4 run.
The Pioneers came out strong in the third game, taking a 4-0 lead. Although leading by as many as six several times, the hosts couldn't create any more breathing room. An ace by Ysa Lozado brought the Contenders to within two points of the lead, 13-11. But again, Providence responded to the challenge, as it was able to regroup to close out the contest.