Nazareth rallies to oust Bears
Don't let the seeds fool you.
Pleasant Valley coach John Gesiskie certainly didn't let them fool him.
Although his Bears had earned the No. 2 seed in the District 11 Class AAA Volleyball Tournament, Gesiskie knew they were the underdogs against No. 7 seed Nazareth.
Pleasant Valley didn't play like it early in the match as it looked poised to avenge a regular season sweep at the hands of Blue Eagles. But Nazareth used superior frontline depth to eventually take control and rally for a 22-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-9 quarterfinal round victory Saturday morning.
"Nazareth is a very good team that is battle tested from playing in the Lehigh Valley Conference," said Gesiskie. "They beat us in three straight games during the regular season so we knew that the seedings were deceiving.
"The District used preferential seeding [for league champs] in volleyball this season for the first time in years and that allowed us to get the high seed and the home match. But we knew we had our work cut out for us. We knew that we had to be at our absolute best to beat Nazareth."
Pleasant Valley was just that during the early stages of the match.
In the opening game, the Bears rallied from a 17-11 deficit to eventually pull out the victory. Breanna Joseph got a pair of kills and two service points down the stretch to carry PV to the win.
The Bears then stormed out to a 7-1 lead in game two and still led 15-11 before Nazareth turned things around.
The Blue Eagles stormed back to pull out close victories in game two and three before rolling in the final game.
"We got that win in the opening game and then rode the momentum from that to a nice lead in game two," said Gesiskie. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish it out."
Gesiskie explained there was one huge difference between the opening game that PV won and the next two games it lost.
"The first three games were all tight. The difference was in the first game we had Breanna at the net down the stretch," he said. "But in games two and three we got a little unlucky with our rotation and she wasn't in.
"We need her presence at the net. She is the one really dominant hitter and blocker that we have and when she rotated away from the frontline, Nazareth was really able to take advantage of it."
Joseph finished with 12 kills and nine blocks to lead the Bears. Sophomore Courtney Miller (seven kills, two blocks) had the next highest totals in both categories.
Meanwhile, Nazareth had five players with at least six kills. Jane Lucas led the way with 21, Rachel Biro added 16 and Christine Flannery chipped in 11.
"We have a number of girls who we can go to at the net, said Nazareth coach Jill Lichty. "We can spread the ball around and take advantage of whoever is playing well."
That's a luxury Pleasant Valley (21-9) just didn't have.
"Nazareth has hitters everywhere," said Gesiskie. "But other than Bre [Joseph], we are using either sophomores or first year varsity players up front. They just aren't quite at that level yet."
In addition to the strong games from Joseph and Miller, the Bears also received nice contributions from In addition to the strong games from Joseph and Miller, the Bears also received nice contributions from Andrea Giardina (17 digs), Mackenzie Dorney (five kills, 10 digs), Stephanie Schmitt (13 assists) and Kiersten Griesback (13 assists).
"I was really happy with the effort we got from our entire team," said Gesiskie. "I thought we battled hard and gave ourselves a chance to win. That's something this group has done all season.
"We lost a lot of good players from last year's team, but these kids worked hard, won an MVC championship, and exceeded all my expectations. It was a very rewarding season."