BURBANK — There might just have been an intimidation factor in play Thursday when the Providence High boys' volleyball team took on Arrowhead Christian in a CIF Southern Section Division IV second-round playoff match.
And that was even before the first serve was put up.
When the teams came out for pregame warmups, the visiting Eagles put on a hitting clinic, booming ball after ball over the net. Some of the Pioneers watched and commented on the power of the Arrowhead Christian hitters.
When the contest did begin, the Pioneers were uncharacteristically quiet and never really settled into their game plan. As a result, Arrowhead Christian made easy work of the Pioneers, earning a sweep, 25-15, 25-13, 25-20, at Providence.
"A team like that just puts so much pressure on you because they are so good," Providence Coach Josh Eggleston said. "You could just feel the weight and the pressure on our guys. Our noise level was down, our communication was down and you could tell that this was the first time that they really saw a team of that qualify."
Although Eggleston gives a great deal of credit to the Eagles (19-7), the No. 4 seed and co-Arrowhead League champions, he also admits his team didn't play its best.
"They missed just four serves in the entire game," Eggleston said. "Yes, they are a very good team.
"But we didn't play our best. We gave the ball away, which we can do. But the problem is we couldn't get it back and we couldn't sideout effectively. We just didn't play our usual game and they hurt us a lot."
Arrowhead Christian received a fine performance from junior Kaleb Denmark. The Pioneers had problems containing the 6-foot-3 outside hitter, who riddled Providence throughout the contest. Denmark, who sat out most of the third game, ended with a match-high 13 kills.
"We knew he was their big guy," Eggleston said of Denmark. "If we just had to contain him, we might have been able to do that. But the rest of their team was good as well, so that made it just that much more difficult for us."
With some of the Eagles starters on the bench in the third game, the Pioneers were able to stay with Arrowhead Christian for most of the stanza. When Pioneer Chris Linget delivered a kill late in the game, the Pioneers trailed by just three, 21-18. However, the Eagles took the next three points and won the game by five.
Denmark came out blazing in the first game, tallying eight kills. After Arrowhead Christian jumped out to an early lead, the Pioneers were able to stay within striking distance midway through and were within five, 16-11. But Arrowhead Christian stepped up the pressure and cruised to the win.
The Eagles led throughout much of the second game, as 14 Providence unforced errors helped lead to its downfall.
Taylor Saldana led the Pioneers with nine kills.
The loss ends a successful season for the Pioneers (16-11), which captured their second straight Liberty League championship. With just three seniors, Providence will return the majority of its team next year.
"The cupboard is definitely not bare for us," Eggleston said. "Some of the guys are kind of wide-eyed at the possibility of what they might be able to do next year."