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Bears clinch EPC North

Pleasant Valley’s reputation was at stake Thursday evening.

Its volleyball squad needed one more victory to complete its journey - and Stroudsburg was the roadblock trying to prevent it.

Pleasant Valley’s mission was to capture another Eastern Pennsylvania Conference North Division championship.

The Bears have ruled the roost in the division since entering the EPC, and continued that domination with a 25-15, 25-21 25-9 sweep on Thursday.

It marks the seventh divisional championship over the last eight seasons for PV, with the lone interruption in that stretch being last fall’s COVID-19 impacted season.

Pleasant Valley’s EPC North domination may not end anytime soon either, as this season’s youthful Bears team figures to be even more daunting down the road.

“Without a team effort, this doesn’t happen,” said Pleasant Valley coach John Gesiskie. “Stroudsburg beat us in five (sets) the last time we faced them.

“They’re a good team, and we knew we had to play the top of our game to beat them.”

Stroudsburg was leading the opening set 15-14 before the Bears revved it up and came on like gangbusters. Pleasant Valley ran off a stunning 11-straight points to win the set.

“That’s something else,” Gesiskie said about his team’s closing run. “That’s hard to do against a good opponent.”

The PV run started when junior middle hitter Sarah Ballek bagged a kill. Teammate Alexis Womack then stepped to the service line and never gave it up, reeling off 10 straight points.

“That obviously gave them momentum,” said Stroudsburg coach Lydia Redman. “But I don’t feel like it unsettled us.

“I really thought we battled them in the second set.”

The Mountaineers did just that as they used a mini run of their own to erase a 15-13 second set deficit and seize a 19-16 lead.

Stroudsburg had all the ingredients to grab a set win, but could never quite capitalize.

Meanwhile, the Bears picked up their game when sophomore Hannah Akob held serve for five-straight points, giving her team a 21-19 lead.

“We had to be at the top of our game, because Stroudsburg never gave up,” Gesiskie said. “I’m just so proud of how we stepped up.”

That step up allowed the Bears to pull out the second set.

Stroudsburg rallied from a 6-1 deficit to tie the score in the third set, but the Bears put together another incredible run to take charge - this one a 14-point barrage.

Emily Shupp laid on a huge number as she served, and served, and served. The sophomore had three aces in the rally as PV increased its lead to 20-6, and all but clinched another championship in the process.

COUNTING THE WAYS … Pleasant Valley spread the wealth around when it came to the numbers game. Junior Emma Bergstresser led the Bears in kills with nine and had five blocks. Ballek was next in kills with six, and led in blocks with seven. Shupp had 10 assists to go along with her six aces and seven digs. Junior Jackie James had a team high 12 digs and 12 assists.

NEVER MISSING A BEAT … Kudos to the solid play of both Womack, and junior Nora Jones, who were always in the thick of things.

BLOCKS, BLOCKS, BLOCKS … Gesiskie noted that according to MaxPreps, the Bears are fourth in the state when it comes to blocks.

ON A ROLL ... A couple of weeks ago, a District 11 playoff berth seemed like a long shot for the Bears. But last night’s win was their fifth straight, improving their record to 8-8, and securing an automatic berth into the Class 4A tournament.

Pleasant Valley's Hannah Ahob (15) and Sarah Allak (16) go up to block a Stroudsburg attack. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS