POCONO SUMMIT – The Pleasant Valley volleyball team was four points away from being swept out of the Mountain Valley Conference championship game Thursday night.
Four points away from losing its first MVC game since 2009. Four points away from failing to three-peat as conference champs.
Down 21-19 late in game three, Pleasant Valley fought back and found a way to force a fourth game. From then on the Bears staged one of the better comebacks any volleyball enthusiast will see, as they took the final three games to win their third straight MVC title, 22-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-18, 15-11.
"I thought that I needed to get my team on the court," said Pleasant Valley head coach John Gesiskie on his thoughts after game two. "I told them after game two, 'I don't know who you are. You're not playing the way you are capable of playing. I'm not giving up. You have to win three games in a row and I know you can do it.'
"Fortunately they listened and started playing the way they are capable of playing. I had to wait to see how we would come out in game three, but once I saw how we were playing I knew it wasn't over."
Pleasant Valley didn't play anywhere near its potential in the first two games and Stroudsburg made the locals pay. The Mounties jumped out to a 14-8 lead to grab the early momentum. The Bears did manage to get within a point (20-19), but couldn't keep up as Stroudsburg won the first game by three.
Stroudsburg once again jumped out to an early lead (7-2) in game two. And, once again, Pleasant Valley fought back to take a 14-13 lead at the midway point. However, the Mounties then went on a 7-1 run to open things up. They would go on to win 25-19.
"We kept making little mistakes here and there," said Gesiskie. "In my eyes we weren't getting into position. We weren't understanding that when I said go 13 feet, it didn't mean 14 feet or 12 feet. That's the difference between touching the ball and digging the ball."
Pleasant Valley then began to turn things around in game three. The Bears forged a 14-8 lead, but watched as Stroudsburg stormed back to tie the game at 15 and eventually take a 21-19 lead.
That was when Pleasant Valley went on a run and stole some much needed momentum. The Bears scored the next six points, capped by a Stroudsburg hit out-of-bounds, to win game three 25-13.
"I felt good once we went on that run," Gesiskie said. "I saw my team start to play the way they can play. I saw my blockers moving. I saw my defense moving. Everything is about foot position. They started getting in the right position with that run. We were ready to go after that."
Game four was all Pleasant Valley. The Bears opened up a 13-9 lead before going on a 9-3 run to take control of the game. Sam Jimenez acted as if she was going to set the ball, but quickly dumped the ball over the net for the game-winner.
The deciding game was nerve-racking early on with the score tied at six. The Bears' Bridget Lozier (16 kills, nine blocks) then came up big with two key blocks to spark a 5-0 run. Stroudsburg tried to answer when it was down to its last point, but served the ball long to lose the match.
Breanna Joseph (ten kills, ten blocks), Mackenzie Dorney (20 digs, seven kills), Kiersten Griesback (18 assists) and Steph Schmitt (21 assists) all contributed in the comeback victory.
Pleasant Valley's last conference loss came to Lehighton in 2009's championship game. Early on it looked as if that streak would come to an end. The fact that it didn't, combined with the way this year's final went, had Gesiskie at a loss for words.
"This is very sweet," admitted Gesiskie. "To be down the way we were. This was such an exciting final. Stroudsburg played unbelievable. Sarah Fillmam (the MVC's MVP) was unbelievable.
"We had a number of girls pick up the slack. Obviously to come back from two down is amazing. I don't know what to say."