The Pioneer Valley Panthers boys volleyball team (4-1) improved to 2-0 in PAC 8 League play with a 3-1 victory at home Tuesday night against the St. Joseph Knights (0-4, 0-1 PAC 8).
The Knights took the first set 25-22 before the Panthers stormed back to win the final three – PV 25-11, 25-23, 25-19.
“At the beginning, the boys were a little nervous. It was our second PAC 8 League game and they had to settle down,” said Pioneer Valley coach Ralph Quintana.
“We played tough for half of each set that we were in but we kept letting our lead slip away,” said St. Joseph coach Jessie Borchin.
The Knights raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first set in a run that featured two kills by Isaiah Rodriguez and a blistering service ace from Marco Sanchez.
Behind the strong net play of Pioneer Valley’s Armando Tamayo, the Panthers went on a 6-0 run of their own to cut St. Joseph’s lead to 7-6.
The Knights got their offense back into high gear, outscoring the Panthers 12-2 and, at 19-8, St. Joseph was cruising.
St. Joseph’s Justin Wong put away three kill shots during the run, Tim Noe added one while Steven Vasquez and Wong each served up an ace.
But the Panthers didn’t go quietly.
They swung the momentum their way with a 12-4 run of their own to close within three at 23-20.
Noe then tipped the ball and found a hole that was good for a 24-20 lead but the Panthers weren’t done.
Tamayo found an opening in the Knights’ defense with his kill shot and when a St. Joseph kill attempt sailed long, Pioneer Valley cut the lead to 24-22.
Wong put the game away for the Knights with a kill shot that bounced off the foot of a Panthers player and St. Joseph had the early lead in the match.
“I told the boys that it was time to take the match into their own hands,” said Quintana. “I just tried to provide the guiding light.”
The Panthers took their coach’s advice to heart, steamrolling the Knights in the second set.
Tamayo went up for an early kill and followed that by faking a kill while tipping the ball softly over the net for another point.
Craig Ragan got into the act with his own kill shot, lobero Christian Fernandez had two service aces followed by two more Tamayo kills for an 8-1 lead, forcing a St. Joseph time out.
It didn’t help.
Coming out of the time out, the Panthers’ Nick Equihua had two kills and the Panthers were in charge; they were ahead 15-3 when the Knights took called another time out.
Behind Tamayo, Equihua, Fernandez, Craig Ragan and Maxwell Barrueta, the Panthers kept the pressure on, closing out the 25-11 set on Angel Gonzalez’s soft dink that landed in the middle of four Knights.
The third set was much closer with the teams trading points most of the way.
With Pioneer Valley leading 13-12, the Panthers appeared to take charge with a 5-0 run.
But the Knights later came back with their own 5-0 run to get back into the set.
Ahead Pioneer Valley 24-23, the Panthers’ Kevin Gonzalez blasted a shot that broke through the St. Joseph blockers and fell to the court for a 25-23 set win and a 2-1 lead in sets.
The Panthers were eager to close out the match in the fourth set and early on it looked like the set would be a blowout.
Pioneer Valley went out to a quick 5-0 lead.
But the Knights didn’t fold.
They responded with their own 7-0 run to get back into the set.
In a set that featured several outstanding rallies, St. Joseph was leading 13-11 when the Panthers found another gear.
Pioneer Valley went on an 11-0 run to take control of the set and the match.
Equihua’s kill gave the Panthers a 24-16 lead and then after a brief St. Joseph Rally, Equihua blasted a kill shot for the match winner.
“Pioneer Valley is a scrappy team,” said Borchin. “We’re a young team but every day in the gym means something positive for us. Our setter, J.P. Smith, did well today – he had a huge impact on the game. Justin Wong played great defense which allowed J.P, to run our offense. We just have to be more efficient in converting our digs into points.”
“Armando Tamayo was on his ‘A’ game today he had 14 kills,” said Quintana. “Craig Ragan came up big with 7 kills and 2 aces and Christian Fernandez was all over the floor, coming up with 21 digs and 3 aces. Kevin Gonzalez covered the net making sure nothing came over. All the boys were superstars today.”
Tim Noe led the Knights with 9 kills. Justin Wong came up with 21 digs.
Both teams have two more matches on their schedules this week.
Pioneer Valley hosts Templeton Wednesday before playing at Paso Robles Thursday.
St. Joseph hosts Arroyo Grande Thursday before playing at Paso Robles Friday.