By Keith Lair, SGVN
PASADENA –The Maranatha High School gym was loud and raucous.
Perfect conditions for a CIF-Southern Section playoff road game for Pasadena Poly’s volleyball team Tuesday.
The Panthers had to play in loud gyms at Mayfield and Chadwick earlier this season and played four five-game matches this season. They had to rally from a 2-0 deficit against Webb last week to just secure a postseason berth. Many of the Panthers had not played in a playoff game until Tuesday.
“I love playing in front of big crowds and I think we become closer as a team when we do,” Poly libero Hannah Kaufman said. “It really pumps us up even more to prove them wrong and silence the gym.”
After a shaky start, Poly knocked off Maranatha in four games, 17-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-18, in the opening round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A playoffs.
“I thought we came out a little nervous,” Poly coach Steve Beerman said. “We’re on the road in the first round and it’s a noisy, rowdy crowd. As the game went along we started to gather our legs and play closer to our abilities. I thought the girls grew up a lot.”
Poly which played Prep League rival Chadwick for the CIF-SS 3AA title the last two years, won its fifth consecutive first-round playoff game. The Panthers will play either La Quinta or Elsinore on Thursday night.
“Our mentality changed,” outside hitter DeeDee Logan said. “We definitely gained maturity. You could tell in the scores. We did not play safer, but we played our game.”
In the lone west San Gabriel Valley matchup of the night, it looked like it might be a Minutemen sweep early on. The Panthers committed 11 unforced errors in the first game.
“They’re young,” Beerman said. “The environment was just different. No matter how much you try to prepare, until you play in a playoff game on the road with a large crowd and people yelling at you, it’s just different. They showed that they gained maturity as the game went on.”
The momentum changed midway through the second game, and a late third-game run by the Panthers sealed the inevitable.
The Minutemen had five service errors in the second game.
“We definitely in Game 2 kept them in that game by missing so many serves,” Maranatha coach Leslie Flores said. “This team had to be better on serve-receive and we got better at that, but our serving never got better. We never had confidence from behind the line.”
“They missed five serves and it allowed us to gain some momentum,” Beerman said.
The Minutemen, who finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Olympic League and got the league’s No. 2 seed with a coin flip, held a 20-18 lead and had serve in the third game.
Maranatha had two serves go wide, but the Minutemen still managed to hold a 22-20 lead when the Panthers were called for a lift.
“This team, they don’t believe in themselves,” Flores said. “It’s a shame because they’re a heck of a team. But once you stomp hard on them they tend to crumble.”
The Minutemen were called for touching the net, a return went into the net and Hannah Kaufman hit her third and final ace of the match to give Poly a 23-22 lead.
“We play in a tough league,” Beerman said. “We’re used to those situations, so we don’t get intimidated. The new situation was that it was a playoff game. But once we got past that, those other situations, we had been in all year. Going four, five games is not new. We’ve been there.”
A passing error led to game point and Poly completed the 5-0 run with a Heather Bruegl kill.
Poly took a 9-5 lead to start the fourth game and Maranatha closed within 10-9, but the Panthers went on a 7-3 run to take a 17-12 lead.
“Poly played well,” Maranatha setter Skylar MacLeod said. “I think we didn’t get our serves in. That is all.”
Logan finished with a game-high 12. kills. Emily Anderson had nine kills for the Minutemen.