Taylor Saldana

Taylor Saldana (Tim Berger Staff Photographer / March 17, 2014)

BURBANK — The Providence High boys' volleyball team took advantage when it needed to.

Trailing inexperienced Bellarmine-Jefferson for most of the second game Monday night in a nonleague contest and down by three and facing match-point, the Pioneers bounced back to even the frame at 24. Then, relying on 6-foot-5 middle hitter Ethan Johnson, along with a couple of well-timed serves, they earned win in the second frame.

"Really, we just controlled the ball the way we needed to in order to side out," Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. "That was the difference."

Eggleston's bunch cooled the rally, as the Guards had hoped to knot the game after dropping the first set. But instead, the Pioneers pulled ahead late and surged to a 25-12, 27-25, 25-18 rivalry victory at Providence.

It marked its second win against Bell-Jeff in the last two weeks for the Pioneers, following a two-set sweep in the Providence Tournament on March 8.

"Part of being a young team is learning how to win," Bell-Jeff Coach Brandon Johnson said. "You can play hard, you can give your all on every point, but it's a mindset to win, knowing how to finish a team off. And we're just a really young, inexperienced team that's still learning the game, let alone something like learning how to win."

Providence (4-8) jumped on Bell-Jeff (0-4) early, building a 12-2 lead in the first game. Junior Taylor Saldana posted four of his game-high 12 kills in the opening frame.

"We were passing really well, our ball control was there," Eggleston said. "All the players were focused on execution. There was a lot of talk, a lot of intensity. You could tell they were ready."

The Pioneers' lead grew to as much as 22-8, while Bell-Jeff appeared overwhelmed.

"The first set, I don't really know what happened," Brandon Johnson said. "We had a really terrible warm-up, and it carried over. It cost us."

But Bell-Jeff recovered nicely, grabbing an early second-game lead and stayed ahead for nearly the entire set, leading by scores of 21-18 and 24-21.

Senior outside hitter Chris Coquia and junior utility Eric Davidians led the Guards with seven kills and 20 digs, and nine kills and 11 digs, respectively. Colbert Orta had 12 digs and three kills for Bell-Jeff.

"In the second and third set, we worked at 100 percent," Johnson added. "We fought as hard as we could. We just didn't have quite enough."

In the third set, the Guards trailed most of the way, before Providence built up a 21-17 lead to wrestle control of the match.

Johnson, a sophomore, added seven kills, including one late. Saldana had the final two kills to seal the victory.

"He's got a natural advantage there," Eggleston said of Johnson. "And when we can put the ball on target, we can use his advantage. We can exploit it."

The Pioneers and Guards will both start league for their next matches. Providence begins Liberty League competition March 25 against Holy Martyrs. Bell-Jeff tips off Santa Fe League play against St. Anthony on March 28.