Win earns Providence volleyball spot in league tournament

BURBANK — The Providence High girls' volleyball team secured itself at least third place in the Liberty League standings and a berth in next week's league championship tournament with a win in the regular season finale Wednesday.

The Pioneers finish the league season at 5-2 and are 15-7 overall after a 25-20, 25-17, 25-14 win over visiting Oakwood.

Regina Benedicto paced the team and set the tone with nine kills. Benedicto, along with co-captain Liza Mier, were recognized on Senior Night prior to the match.

"I think we came out a little too excited, but we pushed through it," said Benedicto, who registered all of her kills in the first two games. "I tried to be calm, take a humble approach and focus on the [match]."

As a team, Providence tallied 15 aces — six in the third game — and had almost as many kills (19).

Benedicto's five service aces in the opening stanza came during a stretch in which the Pioneers scored 11 straight points to take a 12-3 advantage. Oakwood never let up, and rallied from 10 points down at 23-13 to score seven of the next eight points, only to succumb to the seemingly inevitable.

The second game saw six tie scores and five lead changes between the two squads. A pair of service aces from Benedicto late in the frame highlighted the final nine-point stretch, with the Pioneers taking six of them to clinch the victory.

Earlier in the game, a service error from Oakwood sparked six consecutive points for the Pioneers and prompted a Gorillas timeout. The service error came on the ensuing point of what would be the final tie score of the game.

Providence controlled the third game throughout, scoring 10 of the first 12 points and leading by as many as 14 points at 20-6. Similarly to the first game, Oakwood made a valiant effort late, this time reeling off five straight points to get within double digits on the scoreboard, but not much else.

"We came out a little bit unfocused, because of Senior Night," said first-year Pioneers Coach James Jimenez, who received five kills apiece from Lorena Ubillus and Olivia Menke, as well as 14 digs from Mier. "I told them it's an important match to secure a top-three spot. We didn't want to play the other teams in the league for fourth place."

"Our serving took them out of their offense, and gave us easy points," he added.

Providence will host the league tournament, which begins Monday. The Pioneers lost in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs to La Puente last season.

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