In some ways, Pleasant Valley's semifinal matchup with Pocono Mountain East in the Mountain Valley Conference volleyball tournament presented itself almost as a trap game.
The Lady Bears were, after all, the number one seed while the Cardinals were the fourth seed and a heavy underdog. Pleasant Valley had also easily defeated Pocono Mountain East in straight sets both times the teams met in the regular season.
With the stakes much higher than any other previous matchup, Pleasant Valley took care of business, dispatching PM East 25-5, 25-7, 25-11 to setup a showdown with rival Stroudsburg in Monday's finals.
While there was certainly the potential for the Lady Bears to overlook their opponent, Pleasant Valley coach John Gesiskie made sure his team stayed focused on the task at hand leading up to the game.
"We've just been working on our game as a whole," Gesiskie said. "We've been working on a lot of little things. We want to get tougher serving, we want to make sure our defense is a lot quicker, and we want to make sure that our blockers are able to read hitters."
The Lady Bears got solid performances from senior MacKenzie Dorney (four kills, four digs) and juniors Kiersten Griesback (eight assists, one dig, two aces) and Kalli Walling (10 assists, one dig, five assists) in the win.
Pleasant Valley has also benefited from having junior libero Katie Lenart back in the lineup, something that has helped unify the team on the court.
"She gives us a lot more depth in the backcourt," Gesiskie said. "She gives the other girls confidence and she's very talkative on that back row.
"Her passes are very accurate and that allows us to run the offense a little bit better as well. We're expecting a lot more from her now that she's back."
Expectations for PM East were a little bit different this year, with a number of unknowns coming into the season. But a trip to the semifinals is something coach Todd Nesley feels his squad can build on.
"We're a very young team," Nesley said. "Even for our seniors, it's their first year on varsity. The fact that we won enough to even get into this thing is pretty encouraging."
For Pleasant Valley, the focus shifts to Monday's showdown with Stroudsburg. After splitting the two regular season meetings, there's little reason to believe it won't be another thriller.
"It could go either way," Gesiskie said. "It depends on which team is going to come out. But that's the way the finals should be. It should go to the team that comes out to play."