Pleasant Grove came into their first round CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game off of a strong finish to the regular season. The sixth-seeded Eagles won four of their last five games and apart from losing 3-0 to Cosumnes Oaks, only dropped two sets in the process.
As they prepared to host 11th seeded Lincoln from Stockton, Pleasant Grove knew coming into the playoffs with confidence and a winning mentality would benefit them, and it did.
The Eagles advanced with a comfortable straight set victory at home on Tuesday over Lincoln to advance to the second round of the Division I playoffs.
“Our team culture and team chemistry was there and everybody did their job,” said Pleasant Grove head coach Natalie Wells.
“The team pushed out and worked through some things at times but got a win.”
Early on it was clear that Pleasant Grove did what they could to control the net with their overall team size advantage.
Sisters Vivian and Jade Light, who each stand 6’2, played the entirety of the game and were the focal point of the Eagles’ attack with their kills and defense at the frontline to block the Trojans.
“I think they both have great volleyball IQ and the knowledge they bring to the game is a really good presence,” Wells said.
“I think the other girls feed off of their talent and try to match that which is nice.”
Along with the Light sisters, setter Savannah Risley was able to set up her teammates for kills and even score some points of her own with fake sets that were hit over the net.
Pleasant Grove comfortably won the first two sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-14, but the third set was not as easy.
Facing elimination, Lincoln came out and jumped out to an early lead and were up by as many as four points in the set.
After a timeout called by Wells, Pleasant Grove was able to come from behind and take a four point lead of their own, needing just a couple more points to win the set and match which they did 25-20.
“I think it was good for the team to have to come from behind because you can’t create that game pressure in practice,” Wells said.
“The team is playing smooth in their elements and I think it was huge to have a home playoff game.”
As the Eagles advance to the second round of the Division I playoffs, they will take on the reigning section champions in third seeded Oak Ridge after their first round victory over Franklin. Pleasant Grove lost to Oak Ridge in their second game of the season on Aug. 29 in straight sets.
“My assistant coach and I have been watching film and the things we feel like we are weak on are things we will have to work on in practice before the next game,” Wells said.
“Some of the things we worked on tonight in the game were because of the possibility of playing Oak Ridge and it will be tough but we are going to try and take it to them.”
Oak Ridge will come into the matchup with a 29-8 record and will be able to match up with the size of Pleasant Grove.
Oak Ridge has five players each with over 100 kills on the season and have a sister duo with the same experience as Vivian and Jade Light in Kealani and Claire Kuykendall.