Less than 24 hours after pulling the upset of the week on Friday by defeating No. 4 ranked Santa Barbara Community College and snapping their six game win streak, the PCC women’s volleyball team once again found themselves losing the first set of their match.
Their first match of the sixth annual Pierce Invitational came against No. 4 ranked SBCC; Pasadena was outside the top 25. They lost their first set 16-25 before crafting a 3-1 come-from-behind victory by ratcheting up their defense and holding their opponents to just a .168 shooting percentage.
First year head coach Kari Post was hoping for a similar turnaround when the Lancers lost the first set of their second match of the tournament 8-25 against San Diego Mesa on Saturday.
“You have to want it!” Post urged from inside the huddle.
In the second set, Pasadena pounced to an early 5-0 lead, forcing Mesa into a timeout. The teams traded leads back and forth once Mesa caught up 10-10.
“Keep swinging!” Post implored her team to close out the set.
They were able to get a win when sophomore opposite hitter Kayla Howell dove on the hardwood to keep the ball alive before rolling onto her feet to tip the ball down the middle of the Mesa defense. Pasadena won the set 25-22 and evened up the match 1-1.
In the third set, it was Pasadena’s turn to attempt a comeback. Despite playing from behind for most of the set, the team was able to take the lead 18-19 by slowly building momentum through a varied array of spikes, lobs and tips.
After a powerful attack from sophomore outside hitter Kirsten Cabarong forced the ball out of bounds off of a Mesa defender, Pasadena was up 25-24. With the set so close, the teams would have to build a two point lead in order to win. Every possession was pivotal, which may have been to the Lancers’ disadvantage.
“I think towards the end everybody just got, not excited, but a little anxious,” second year middle blocker Angela Banuelos explained.
With their tournament on the line, Mesa targeted the ball to their outside hitter, Mya Shannon-McGlothen, on consecutive possessions to take the lead. After a service error sent the ball sailing out of bounds, Pasadena finally lost the set 28-30, giving Mesa a 2-1 lead in the match.
Throughout the back and forth match, between each set and all the switching of sides, and no matter what the score, one thing was constant in the Pierce College north gym: the loud and continuous cheers from the San Diego Mesa bench.
“M-E-S-A,” during every serve.
“We love free points!” after each unforced error.
The Pasadena team is one of the most experienced in the South Coast Conference, with two-thirds of the team composed of sophomores, including transfers.
“We’ve been in some catfights,” sophomore middle blocker Chy’Annea Hodges recalled after the game.
In practice the team often simulates late game come-back situations.
“Today showed we need to going harder in those drills,” Hodges continued, “but it’s definitely not the first time we’ve encountered [close games]. “
Down 1-2 in the first to three match, Pasadena needed to win the fourth set to keep their tournament upset streak alive. Once again, the Lancers fell behind early, but clawed their way back into the game with their defense and blocking—two areas where they feel they can compete with anyone.
“I just go out there and feel like our team is better than anyone else is,” said redshirt sophomore Kendra Logan.
Logan and fellow middle blocker Hodges are both ranked top 25 in the state for blocks per set.
With Pasadena catching up to Mesa 7-9 in the fourth set, Logan blocked the ball at the net to bring Pasadena one point closer. On the next play, Logan and Mesa setter Lindsey Gordon jousted for control of the ball as it pinballed above the net. Pasadena came down with the point to tie the set 9-9, and from the Lancers bench a sarcastic “we love free points” signaled their comeback was on.
Mesa had many chances to pull away as the set reached a climax, but Pasadena kept the lead with three massive spikes from Cabarong before Banuelos won the set on a spike of her own, 25-22.
With the fifth and deciding set being played to just 15 points, the Lancers’ sluggish 1-5 start was too much to overcome and they fell 16-18, losing the match 2-3. Pasadena’s penchant for comebacks did have them rally to tie the set at eight though. A miraculous dig from Howell sent the ball flying out of bounds and prompted an athletic save from freshman opposite hitter Rayleen Rivera, which led to an unprepared Mesa hitting the ball out of bounds.
Despite losing their third place consolation match to Bakersfield, 1-3, and losing two out of three games in the tournament, Pasadena made a splash in the weekly coach’s rankings. Pasadena broke into the top 25 for the first time this year at No. 23, based on their “Upset of the Week” and “Match of the Week” performances. They also forced both SBCC and SD Mesa down two spots to No. 6 and 17, respectively.
Pasadena starts conference play this Friday at LA Trade Tech (0-4) hoping to fix their slow starts.
“We fought, I can’t complain,” Hodges said. “We fought till the end even though we didn’t fight in the beginning.”