By Rick Assad
Two of the best Prep League boys’ volleyball teams took the court on Monday afternoon knowing that the winner was going to be given the championship outright or a share of the title.
Providence High had a few strikes against it and without them could have altered the final score.
In the end, visiting Pasadena Poly proved too good and swept three sets from the Pioneers, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16.
The Pioneers were playing without their best offensive force, senior outside hitter Gunnar Petrone, who was out sick, and the team is coming off a week of inconsistent practices and spring break.
Mario Adriano is the Providence head coach and knew beating Pasadena Poly wasn’t going to be easy.
“No excuses but last night was definitely unfortunate in terms of timing. Our team has been off the last week for spring break and looked noticeably disjointed yesterday, which didn’t surprise me given our inability to practice as a full team the past few days” he said. “Couple that with the surprising news we got right before the game that Gunnar Petrone was out injured.”
Adriano said that the Pioneers and Panthers went at it in a five-setter and came up just shy.
“I knew going in that the match was going to be a challenge for us,” he pointed out. “The last time we saw Poly, we had an intense five-set match where we came up short in the final set.”
Jared Soliman is the assistant coach and echoed a similar sentiment.
“I’ll start by saying that Poly is a very respectable team. They have a lot of talent and chemistry playing together,” he said. “Unfortunately for us, this game happened to be the first day back from spring break, and on top of this Gunnar needs to rest from an illness. It’s tough to say how different the game would have gone even with our entire roster after a week of inconsistent practices and their adjustment back to school.”
Senior outside hitter Brett Adams stepped up for the Pioneers with five kills, two blocks and two digs.
Soliman believes the outcome would have been different.
“If timing was more in our favor and if we had our complete roster, I’m sure our boys would have put up a better fight against Poly,” he said.
The Panthers struck early and they struck often including the third set despite it being close in the early portion when it was tied 1-1, 2-2 and 5-5 on an ace from Providence sophomore libero/defensive specialist John Fayad.
From this point, Pasadena Poly pulled ahead 9-5 on a kill from Jared Gray and 13-7 on a service ace from Cole Mallinger.
The Pioneers (17-8-1 and 5-2 in league) sliced Poly’s lead to 13-9 on a kill from senior middle blocker/outside hitter Charles Wehrenberg (four kills and two digs with one block).
The Panthers (15-1 and 7-0 in league) received consecutive kills from Scout Hollingsworth that made it 16-11 and an ace from Jack Gomez extended the cushion to 17-11.
Hollingsworth’s spike pushed Poly’s advantage to 18-12 and Pierre Vincent’s winner made it 20-14.
Bardia Vincent’s dagger made it 22-15 and a kill from Pierre Vincent handed the Panthers a 23-16 margin.
The set and match were claimed when Pierre Vincent served back-to-back aces.
The match began with the Pioneers surging to a 2-0 lead when Gray’s ball went out of bounds.
Poly settled down and powered in front 5-4 on Hollingsworth’s service winner and 6-5 on Mallinger’s kill.
It was deadlocked at 7-7 on a winner from Providence’s senior middle blocker Nicholas Stoliker (three spikes and one dig).
Poly went on a 9-2 scoring streak and led 16-9 with key points coming from Gomez who added two aces that made it 10-7 and 11-7 when the Pioneers called time out.
Jad Ammar’s kill made it 12-8 and Hollingsworth’s push extended the lead to 14-9. Mallinger’s and Pierre Vincent’s co-block made it 16-9.
Pierre Vincent’s bullet gave Poly a 23-13 edge and Ammar’s winner made it 24-14 before Providence’s hitting error ended the game at 25-16.
The middle set was tied at 2-2 and 4-4 before the Panthers stepped on the pedal and led 9-4 on a spike from Gray.
It soon became 12-8 and 13-8 on two aces from Hollingsworth and 16-10 on a service winner from Mallinger.
Pasadena Poly dashed in front 19-14 on Hollingsworth’s kill and 22-16 on Ammar’s spike.
Pierre Vincent’s kill made it 23-17 and Mallinger’s hammer gave the Panthers a two games to none advantage.
“Coach [Mario] Adriano and I have full confidence that our team will keep their heads up and use this loss to finish the season as strong as we can,” Soliman said.
Providence senior middle blocker Mark Karroum added two blocks and one kill, junior opposite hitter Lucas Valera tossed in six digs and one ace and junior setter Ethan Bornoff chimed in with 12 assists and one dig.
“We knew we were Poly’s last obstacle in the way of their league championship,” Adriano said. “On the other side of the coin, a victory for us yesterday meant we had a shot at being co-champions with them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for us.”