Pleasant Valley volleyball coach John Gesiskie knew that his Bears team was going to have a tough time with the Lehighton Indians on their home court.
Gesiskie ended up being right, but was fortunate enough to see his girls come away with the win.
Lehighton gave Pleasant Valley all it could handle in the first and third games of its Mountain Valley Conference match-up Thursday afternoon, but saw the Bears leave town with a 26-24, 25-6, 25-22 sweep. Pleasant Valley remains perfect in the MVC at 10-0.
"Some of our girls weren't playing to their potential early on," said Gesiskie. "But then we got some kills and got back in the game. Some of the girls really stepped up. The first game was a little closer than I would have liked it to be, but it is a good one to be down that far and come back to win it."
Game one was extremely close and saw Lehighton climb out to a 20-16 lead late. However, Pleasant Valley (17-1) cleaned up its play at the right time and staged a late comeback. That, coupled with Lehighton's inability to get a timely kill, led to the Bears eventually winning 26-24.
"It was a very close set," recalled Lehighton head coach TJ O'Connor. "Both teams played very well. We came and out did what we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win. We were up late, but couldn't close it out.
"Pleasant Valley is a very consistent team that doesn't really have a weak player. Unfortunately we got stuck in a rotation where throughout the year we have had trouble putting a ball away. And we couldn't put the ball away when we needed to."
Game two wasn't much of a game at all. The Bears jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and forced O'Connor into a quick timeout. The Indians (10-4) responded with two points, but couldn't get much going after that. A Mackenzie Dorney kill capped the lop-sided game for Pleasant Valley.
Despite their poor performance in game two, the Indians came out with a renewed fire in game three and staked to a 10-4 lead. Lehighton did catch a lot of early breaks with its serves and hits hitting the top of the net and falling over, but even that would n't have been possible without the increased effort.
"I can't say enough about Taylor Yurasits tonight," said O'Connor. "She played phenomenal for us. She was going for every ball and laid out full extension a number of times. I think she really worked the team after game two and got our heads back in it.
"We played like we should have in game three. Unfortunately we handed game two to them. They didn't have to do very much to beat us that game."
As young as Pleasant Valley's team is (three seniors, six juniors, 15 sophomores and freshmen), it refused to flinch in the face of adversity. Allison Markowski put together a string of timely serves and helped the Bears go on a 8-2 run to tie the game at 12. Pleasant Valley would go on to take the lead and never looked back en route to completing the sweep.
"It is an interesting group," said Gesiskie. "There are usually four or five sophomores that are consistently out there. A lot of times the score doesn't really affect them that much. They are just playing the game of volleyball, which it is all about. They are young, but they don't seem to have any fear.
"Part of the game is being down and they just say that's okay – we just have to do this. Sometimes they will even turn to me and say I know I should have done this or that, so they are even coaching themselves. Not only do they know a mistake occurred, but how they are going to fix it."
Two key players for Pleasant Valley were Courtney Miller (nine kills, four blocks) and Bridget Lozier (nine kills, two blocks). The two are helping fill the void of conference MVP Breanna Joseph, who has been out since Sept. 8 with an ankle injury.
"As soon as Breanna went down, a lot of people thought that our season was done," said Gesiskie. "We focused a lot of those girls in the following practices and told them that this is what they have to do. We just worked constantly on our big girls and they have really stepped up."
Lehighton's main contributors were Jackie Jordan (21 digs, 18 kills, one ace) and Yurasits (14 assists, nine kills, three aces).