By Rick Assad
For the vast majority of the first set of the Prep League girls’ volleyball battle, host Providence High was in control.
That is until it was tied at 20-20 and from there Pasadena Poly saw the momentum in its favor and seized the opening set.
It required three more games, but the Panthers were relentless and came away with a 25-22, 25-3, 18-25, 25-12 victory on Tuesday night.
The initial game was even 2-2 when senior outside hitter/setter Cailey Ocampo, who injured her knee in the fourth set and returned with a set of crutches, served out of bounds.
The Pioneers led 10-7 on junior outside hitter/middle blocker Shannon Ferrell’s tapper and it became 12-8 on a service winner from senior setter Gabriella Aves.
Another tapper by Ferrell, who was all over the court, extended Providence’s advantage to 16-11.
It became 19-17 on a kill from junior outside hitter/middle blocker Kylie De Vries, who played extremely well and 20-17 on an ace from Aves.
The Panthers (7-2 and 2-0 in league) leveled it at 20-20 when senior libero Thalia Cintron’s blast traveled out of bounds.
Of the next seven points, Pasadena Poly took five and they included a block from junior outside hitter Olivia Ip that made it 21-20.
Sophomore outside hitter Cameilia Ding tossed in a spike that made it 22-21, Ip’s kill extended the lead to 24-21 and the set was made official on Ip’s winner.
Down two sets to none, the Pioneers (5-5 and 0-2 in league) had their backs to the wall and didn’t want to get swept.
“I believe we battled extremely hard in the first set. We have been dealing with adversity after one of our middles [junior outside hitter/middle blocker Luciana Mongelli] got injured last week,” Providence coach Shelby Stanger said.
Mongelli hurt her lower extremity versus Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and was wearing a walking boot.
It was even at 2-2 in the third game on a kill from Pasadena Poly’s sophomore setter Ellie Chu, but Providence forged in front 8-6 on a stuff from De Vries.
An ace from Providence’s junior defensive specialist Sofia Martinez made it 9-6 but the Panthers evened it at 9-9 on a service ace from junior libero/defensive specialist Caroline Holdsworth.
The Pioneers collected four straight points and led 14-10 and they came on a De Vries block, Ocampo’s ace, Ferrell’s kill and De Vries spike.
When Ferrell added yet another kill the lead became 17-11 as the Panthers called time out.
Providence claimed six of the next nine points and led 23-14 with key plays being a kill from Ferrell that made it 19-12, a duo block from freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Caterina Gambaro and Ferrell to make it 20-14 and Ferrell’s ace to make it 23-14.
The Pioneers would capture the set when Pasadena Poly junior middle hitter Bella Duncan served out of bounds.
“The third set we played amazing volleyball,” Stanger noted. “We stuck to our game plan and we did not give up. I am beyond proud of my team for battling and not giving up.”
The match-clinching fourth set saw the Panthers jump out to a 7-1 lead when Ferrell’s hit sailed out of bounds.
It became 13-6 on a kill from Pasadena Poly’s senior outside hitter Lilie Henry and 14-6 on a push from senior middle hitter/middle hitter Cyanne Jones.
The Panthers led 18-8 on a push from Chu and Ip’s dagger made it 19-8 as the Pioneers needed a break in the action.
Junior outside hitter Tilde Keatley’s kill for the Panthers made it 22-10 and Keatley’s block pushed the margin to 23-10 before the match was seized on a push from Ip.
The second set was a blowout as Pasadena Poly bolted to a 18-0 lead as Ip added five spikes that made it 3-0, 6-0, 10-0, 11-0 when the Pioneers called time out and 18-0.
Keatley tossed in four kills that made it 2-0, 7-0, 8-0, 14-0, while Chu delivered three aces that made it 4-0 as Providence needed a time out, 12-0 and 15-0.
“The second set we were rattled, and Pasadena Poly did a great job of taking advantage,” Stanger pointed out. “After the set finished, we kept our focus on moving forward and we knew the next set was ours to take.”
Even though the Pioneers lost in four sets, who knows how the match would have played out had the hosts won the first set?
For sure it would have required a fifth game and in that scenario anything could have happened.