Bears front line steps up
bob ford/times news Pleasant Valley's Courtney Miller (23) hammers the ball through Lehighton blockers Jackie Jordan (16) and Tiffany Thompson (15)
The Pleasant Valley girls' volleyball team entered Mountain Valley Conference play without Breanna Joseph, last year's Most Valuable Player.
When Joseph suffered an injury during an early season tournament, Bears' head coach John Gesiskie knew he had to take the steps to eliminate any worries on the front line.
"Once Joseph got hurt, we knew we needed a stronger blocker up there," Gesiskie said. "We spent a lot of time with our big girls in the last four or five practices where it was strictly about them. They knew they had to step up their game."
For the third conference match in a row, Pleasant Valley's front line answered their coach's calling and did exactly what was asked of them against MVC rival Lehighton. The Bears' front line caused havoc throughout the match and went on to capitalize on the Indians' mistakes to score a 25-13, 25-16, 25-21 sweep in front of their home crowd.
"They all stepped it up today," Gesiskie said. "The setters know they can go to a variety of people without Breanna there. We always tried to get a variety of hitters, but the setters knew that (Joseph) could always put them away. When the setters spread it around, it causes it to be a little hectic on the other side.
"Because if you have one person who is always hitting it the defense can settle in that position. When you have three girls across the board who are hitting and who are putting it away, it keeps the defense on their feet. Those girls stepped up and did a great job."
While the Bears (9-1, 3-0) used some solid serving to their advantage in the first two games against Lehighton, it was the play of Bear middle hitters Courtney Miller (10 kills, three blocks) and outside hitter Mackenzie Dorney (nine kills, 10 digs) who raised havoc for the Indians' defense. PV setters Steph Schmitt (13 assists) and Kiersten Griesback (13 assists) also played very well.
In game one, Pleasant Valley jumped out to a 9-0 lead and cruised to the victory. In game two, after tying the game up four times in the beginning, the Indians faultered as Bears' outside hitter Ashley Rivera (five kills) and middle hitter Bridget Lozier (five kills) also showed that they have the capability to attack the net.
"They kept our back line really moving around," said Lehighton coach TJ O'Connor said. "We couldn't really get comfortable and settle in to make those passes, which we need to run an offense.
"The bottom line is we gave them free ball after free ball and our hitters weren't swinging. Our passers didn't deliver. When you give them a lot of free balls they're going to hit it right back down your throat, which is what they did to us."
The Indians (4-2, 2-2) did find life in the third game that featured 10 ties and four lead changes. Lehighton even built a 15-10 lead at one point.
But the Bears fought back, and with the scored tied at 20-20, Dorney put an exclamation point on a fine night by scoring three of the last five points on kills.
"It's going to be an intersting season," Gesiskie said. "We have to wait and see what happens when Breanna comes back. Hopefully it's soon, but it probably won't be until closer to the end of the season.
"At least now the girls have the confidence and know that they have the ability to beat some good teams. Hopefully we can continue to do that."