BURBANK — With perennial powerhouse Viewpoint High no longer in the Liberty League this season, the Providence boys' volleyball team players and coach think the Pioneers have a legitimate shot to capture a championship this year.
However, in order to do so, they realize they must get up for every match against the top challengers in league, as well as defeat the opponents they should beat.
Coming into Monday's league match with Yeshiva, the Pioneers didn't know which caliber of team they would face with the Panthers. If Yeshiva included a group of players that were standouts from the school's boys' basketball program, Providence expected a tough outing for his squad.
Unfortunately, Pioneers Coach Josh Eggleston was absent from Monday's contest because he was ill. What he missed was his Pioneers having little trouble defeating a Yeshiva squad that didn't feature those standout players, 25-10 25-7, 25-8.
Providence (9-8, 4-0 in league) assistant Liz Reuter said it was important for the Pioneers to stay focused even though the Panthers didn't possess a wealth of talented athletes.
"Having a week off for spring break, I thought we were able to work the kinks out early and they played very well the rest of the way," Reuter said. "Sometimes it's hard to stay focused when you see you have an advantage over another team."
Coincidently, Yeshiva (1-3, 0-1) was also missing its coach because of illness. In his place to coach the Panthers was the school's athletic director, Cary Many, a Providence graduate and former Pioneers boys' basketball coach.
"We tried to get some of the basketball players to come out, but they take part in a big Jewish orthodox basketball tournament in March and that is really important to them," Many said.
It was evident in the early going of the first game that the Pioneers were taking on a team that was clearly overmatched. Providence jumped out to a 13-2 lead, with one of the Panthers' points coming on a Providence unforced error.
Providence increased its advantage in the first game to 18-4 on a kill by Phil Harvey. In the game, seven of Yeshiva's points came on Pioneers errors. The Pioneers also had five aces in the first and took advantage of 11 unforced errors by their opponent.
Harvey led the charge with a match-high 13 kills. Teammate DJ Cabrera added seven kills and Kieran McGroaty had seven aces.
It was much of the same in the second game, as Providence jumped out to an 18-4 lead on the strength of four aces and five kills from Harvey.
Yeshiva did cut down on its unforced errors in the second game, committing six. Providence's solid serving continued in the second as it accounted for six aces. The Panthers could account for just one kill in the stanza.
Instead of getting complacent in the third game, the Pioneers kept up the pressure, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. However, the Panthers battled back to score the next three points to make it a two-point game.
But Providence quickly took control of the game back and built up a sizable lead that was never threatened.
"It's really important for us to win a league title," Cabrera said. "It's something that we talk about all the time in practice. With Viewpoint not here any more, we think we have a good chance."