Bears roll to championship
EAST STROUDSBURG - There's little doubt that the Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg volleyball teams were the class of the field all season in the Mountain Valley Conference.
The Bears, who claimed the regular season title, and Mounties parlayed that success into first and second seeds in the MVC tournament, respectively.
After splitting two regular season meetings and cruising in their semifinal matchups, it was only fitting that the two rivals met one more time in the MVC title game.
An inspired Pleasant Valley squad used a strong finish, led by senior MacKenzie Dorney, to earn a 25-19, 25-20, 25-17 win over Stroudsburg and claim its fourth consecutive MVC title.
The victory was also the fourth MVC championship for Dorney, who has been one of the leaders for the Bears on and off the court this season.
"It's so satisfying and I wouldn't want it any other way," Dorney said afterwards. "Stroudsburg has been our rival and they're a great team; they give us our best competition.
"It's amazing to know that we played a great game of volleyball. It wasn't just lackadaisical volleyball. We were able to finish."
With the Bears trailing 15-12 in a back-and-forth third set, Dorney stepped up to the service line and started an 8-0 run, highlighted by three aces, to give Pleasant Valley a 20-15 lead, which it held for the remainder of the set.
For Dorney, who also added six kills and a team-high 13 digs, it was simply a matter of doing whatever was necessary to pull out the win.
"I've been struggling with my serves lately and I definitely didn't want to let the team down," the senior said. "It was a big deal for me to just get them in. But I didn't want to just get them in. I wanted to ace them.
"Little things like that definitely set the team off. We can go from being down, then one-player steps it up and everyone turns it up. It's amazing how fast things can change."
Momentum swings are always a part of the game and Pleasant Valley coach John Gesiskie has come to expect clutch performances like Dorney's, who was a MVC First Team All Star this season.
"She was on a roll and she was fired up," Gesiskie said. "She's been a great leader for our girls on the court. She's constantly talking and pushing these girls to the next level and telling them how much she trusts them."
Dorney and the Bears were also able to lean on junior Kiersten Griesback, who earned her 1,000th assist in the game, finishing with 14 assists and one dig.
Seniors Courtney Miller (six kills, four blocks) and Ashley Rivera (four kills, nine digs, one ace) helped round out a solid team effort for Pleasant Valley.
"We have certain players that will step it up when they need to," said Bridget Lozier, who finished with eight kills, three assists and four blocks. "But we can play well with or without our starters."
The win sets the Bears up for what is likely a top seed and a potential deep run in the district playoffs, something Gesiskie will make sure his girls are ready for.
"This type of play (tonight) gets us ready for districts," Gesiskie said. "Stroudsburg played a tough game here and this will get us a little more energized now that we know what we have to do.
"There are a few little things, as usual, that we have to tweak a little bit here and there. But we'll be working on that this week and we'll be ready for districts."