Lady Bears defend title
ron gower/times news filephoto Pleasant Valley's Breanna Joseph sets the ball as teammate Stephanie Schmitt looks on during the MVC semifinals.
DINGMANS FERRY - After Tuesday's semi-final win over Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley head coach John Gesiskie said that he believed which ever team made the fewest mistakes in Thursday's final would end up the victor.
He couldn't have been more correct.
Pocono Mountain East committed numerous errors throughout the night, while Pleasant Valley continued to play its game and stayed focused. Although the Lady Bears had their share of mistakes in the second game, it was the only time when they let the errors compound into a loss. The Bears eventually took advantage of all of the Cardinals' mistakes and defended their Mountain Valley Conference title, winning 25-20, 21-25, 25-20, 25-20.
"That seemed to be the story for (East) tonight," said Gesiskie. "And that's exactly what happened to us in the second game. Things started to snowball and eventually it got away from us. Thankfully that was the only game where we really couldn't correct our mistakes in time."
Pocono Mountain's misfortunes began early, as it quickly fell behind 9-3 in the opening game. The Cardinals consistently hit serves or kill-attempts into the net or out of bounds. Pleasant Valley's lead ballooned to 19-11 before the Cardinals made a late push. East got to within five, but that ended up being the difference in the end.
Following a back-and-forth start to game two, the Cardinals finally took their first lead of the night at 18-17. In that time, East - once down 17-15 - scored nine straight points to expand its lead to 24-17. The Bears managed to get a few points back, but it was too little too late as they fell by four.
After having just watched East rip off nine straight points to steal game two, the night could have went one of two ways for the young Bears. To Gesiskie's delight, his girls showed no worries and were ready to get back to work.
"I told them that it was just a bump in the road," said Gesiskie. "They didn't look scared at all. After the game, we the coaches were wondering what they were going to look like when they came over. When we got in the huddle they just looked at me and wanted to know what they had to do now.
"They had a lot of confidence in themselves that they knew they could come back. We talked about what we were going to do and they said okay. Sometimes when the kids don't say anything I don't know if they got the message. With the way they responded, I know they got the message."
Pleasant Valley fell behind early in game three, but battled back and took a 13-9 lead. East's Tristen Wicks single-handedly kept her team in the game with a handful of deadly kills. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, her efforts went for naught as they would never retake the lead and dropped the game 25-20.
The Bears slipped behind once again at the start of game four. This time MVC MVP Breanna Joseph (15 kills, nine blocks) led her Bears back with five consecutive service points. The game remained close until PV freshman Kiersten Griesback (19 assists) stepped to the service line with the score tied at 12. Griesback rose to the occasion and reeled off nine straight points, including two aces, to blow the game open. East would score seven points to make things interesting, but had a serve go long to end the match.
"Our freshmen stepped up big tonight and she was one of them," said Gesiskie. "We usually use four freshmen, but we used five tonight. She got up there with the confidence and railed them off. She didn't hesitate. She had that look in her eye that she was going to do it."
Pleasant Valley ends the MVC playoffs with a 21-8 overall record with a spotless 14-0 line in the conference. Gesiskie was concerned about his team's inexperience at the beginning of the season. If someone would have told him at the time that his team would go on to win the MVC title without a loss in the conference, he admitted that he probably wouldn't have believed them.
"I would have said, 'Yeah right,'" Gesiskie joked. "I knew we had the ability to get to the playoffs. I thought we were going to have a bump along the way, but when the bump never came I was like 'Wow.'
"Joseph and (Mackenzie) Dorney were really the only ones who had played before. The rest of the girls just did what they had to do to get better and gained confidence along the way. They all believed in each other and it paid off tonight."