Providence volleyball opens league play with three-game sweep

BURBANK — Weeks of tournament matches, nonleague contests and hours of practice had led the Providence High boys' volleyball team to the moment the Pioneers have been working toward.

Providence opened defense of its Liberty League championship by hosting rival Holy Martyrs. The Pioneers weren't particularly crisp, they suffered lapses at times and seemed out of sync on occasion.

Despite the problems, Providence was able to overcome its shortcomings to earn a 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 win against the visiting Armens on Tuesday.

"We did have some problems and we probably didn't play our best," Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. "But we also did do some good things that I was very happy with and some of our guys stepped up.

"For our first league game, I was pretty happy. We are trying to back up our league title, so we have to continue to keep getting better."

The Pioneers (5-9) have had to shuffle their lineup throughout the season. With injuries and players dealing with other school obligations, the rotations have looked different from match to match.

"This is probably only the second match that we had that rotation that we had out there today," Eggleston said. "Yes, it makes it tough, but that is just what we have to deal with."

The Pioneers received a solid performance from senior Ian Laue, who tallied a match-high 13 kills. Junior Taylor Saldana added six kills and sophomore Ethan Jacobson had five blocks.

"It was really important that we came out and won our first league game," Laue said. "That is something that we wanted to do. But we had to fight hard for that today."

Although the Pioneers got off to a strong start to open the contest, they let the Armens (3-3, 1-1 in league) back into the first game and almost gave it up.

Providence jumped out in front, 5-1, and maintained the cushion in the early going with an 8-4 advantage. However, powered by a 5-0 run, Holy Martyrs battled back and surged ahead, 9-8. The teams then took turns making mistakes, as the score was tied six times before the Pioneers could create some breathing room at 17-13.

Providence contained to play well and increased its lead to 23-17. But just two points from taking the first game, the Pioneers started to implode. The Armens trimmed the lead to 24-23 on a Providence net violation. The Pioneers were able to finally close out the game on a kill from Saldana.

Jacobson had three crucial blocks down the stretch in the opener.

"We were able to get away with some of the problems that we had today," Eggleston said. "But if we play against a tougher team, I don't think we're going to be so lucky. We have to continue to play hard and not give up, even if we have a big lead."

In the second game, Providence again held a comfortable lead at 11-3, only to see Holy Martyrs erase the advantage. When Anthony Avakian delivered a kill, the Armens had tied the score at 14. But Providence responded to the threat, going on a 7-2 run to go ahead, 21-16.

Holy Martyrs began the third game strongly and enjoyed a 5-1 lead. But the Pioneers inched their way back and took a 7-6 lead on a kill by sophomore Chris Lingast. They never relinquished the lead thereafter.

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