PASADENA — It may be early in the Pacific League girls' volleyball season, but the significance of Tuesday's league match between visiting Glendale High and host Pasadena wasn't lost on either team.
Maybe that's why the Bulldogs were a little more thrilled and the Nitros a bit more bummed after Pasadena's 25-18, 25-17, 16-25, 25-11 triumph at Hamilton Gymnasium.
With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in league, where they are currently tied for fourth place with Crescenta Valley (2-3, 2-2).
The Nitros dropped to 5-4, 1-3.
"It's a pretty big win for us," Bulldogs Coach Shari Iwatani said. "We struggled through the first two league games and this helps boast our confidence and helps our team gel a little bit more."
Momentum was up for grabs after the third game as the Nitros stormed back from a 2-0 deficit with a convincing 25-16 victory.
That energy, however, did not carry over into the fourth game.
In fact, it was quite the opposite as the Bulldogs raced out to a 9-2 advantage behind the devastating serve of 6-foot-3 junior Bayley Neubauer.
The middle blocker served with Pasadena leading 5-2 and directly contributed to three of her team's next four points.
Neubauer went to work after a kill from Bulldogs' senior Mariah Holden through the dig attempt of Glendale's Sevana Stepanian.
Neubauer first connected on a flat-footed ace, which was followed by a Glendale service-receive error.
Neubauer's final point of the Bulldogs' 4-0 run came with a line-drive ace that rippled off the top of the net and died on Glendale's side. The point put Pasadena ahead, 9-2, and led to a timeout from Glendale Coach Jennifer Vo.
"On our first serves we stay on the ground and once we get into the swing of it, we start jump serving," said Neubauer, who finished with a match-high eight aces. "When we serve low, that's usually when we stay on the ground."
The timeout froze Neubauer, who smacked a service error out of the break.
However, despite the Bulldogs' error, Glendale did not recover.
Pasadena continued to build its lead toward its zenith of 13 at 21-8 and again at 22-9.
Two kills from Nitros' outside hitter Ninette Mirzakhanian pushed the score to 22-11.
Yet, the Bulldogs closed out with a kill and block from Racheal Ofili and a match-clinching ace from Holden.
Holden's ace was Pasadena's 16th, much to the chagrin of Vo.
"I just thought we didn't come out with a lot of energy compared to last week's game. This game we weren't as consistent," Vo said. "We were kind of dead and boring to watch. I thought we should have been more energetic and played with a little more enthusiasm, played with a little more life."
Glendale's defensive struggles fueled Pasadena's runs.
The Nitros jumped out to a 7-3 advantage in the first game behind a pair of kills from Mirzakhanian, but turned over possession and two points on consecutive attacking errors.
Worse yet for Glendale was that Neubauer came up to serve and was sharp again.
This time, Neubauer showed off her jump serve and converted four aces, two to the left, one to the right and a back-row shot that managed to stay inbounds.
By the time Neubauer faulted on a service error, Pasadena's four-point deficit flipped into a four-point lead as the Bulldogs never looked back after taking a 12-8 advantage.
The second game started out similarly close with Glendale holding a 7-6 lead after a service error from Pasadena.
Again the Bulldogs launched a big rally, this time taking a 15-7 advantage behind a 9-0 spurt paced by two aces and a kill from Holden and three kills and a block from Neubauer.
Glendale's best effort came in the third game, where the Nitros proved the aggressors, breaking a 7-7 tie with five straight points, three via aces from setter Amy Tran.
While Pasadena pulled within 15-13, the Nitros closed out with a 10-4 flurry.
The Bulldogs displayed their hustle on two distinct plays in the fourth game, the first when sophomore libero Hilary Santos jumped foot first into the padded wall at the edge of the court for a dig that was eventually converted into a kill from Cashmere Cloyd that put Pasadena ahead, 4-1.
"What I liked most is the effort," Iwatani said. "We were missing three starters due to injuries or grades and I had to shuffle my lineup. I was proud of how the bench came out to play."
A little later on, Cloyd dove cross-court and collided with her own bench in collecting a dig with Pasadena leading, 18-8.
Overall, Ofili led the Bulldogs with 13 kills and three blocks, Neubauer finished with 11 kills and two blocks, Cloyd tallied 10 kills, Holden contributed 13 digs and nine kills and setter Venice Santos added 32 assists.
Mirzakhanian paced Glendale with 12 kills, while sophomore Kirsten Cabarong added six kills and an ace.