SHINGLE SPRINGS — Back-to-back timeouts, untied shoelaces — all in an effort to ice Alex Rader — didn’t work as the Ponderosa senior caught Pleasant Grove off guard with a match-ending ace to close the Bruins’ 15-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-22 win over the visiting Eagles Monday night.
Rader’s kill on Kylie Christensen’s assist had tied the set at 22-22 and halted Pleasant Grove’s 6-2 run and bid to force a fifth game. Two mis-hits had Ponderosa at match point before Rader waited out the Eagles’ stall tactics to land the winning serve.
“That was intense and a big comeback for us,” Rader said. “We’ve beaten them the last three years and expected to win so it was important to stay confident and focused.”
The Bruins were anything but focused as they stumbled through the opening set. Their serve receive went south, unforced errors and an inability to cover the middle — just to name a few — added up to Pleasant Grove’s runaway win.
“We started off real slow … we’re a new young team trying to figure out our chemistry and we have a lot of work to do to improve,” senior outside Lindsey Bowles said. “We’re learning to compete, have an idea of wanting to win and tonight we came together and didn’t let up.”
Bowles’ analysis kicked in during the second set. Maddie Clayton’s tip over the block broke a 9-all tie and Ponderosa led 16-13 after Christensen’s push to the corner. As libero Morgan O’Neill and Sarah Walker shored up the Bruin defense, Christensen and Nicole Banke fed Bowles and Rader who took aim at the Eagle defense.
Though Pleasant Grove trimmed a 24-19 deficit to two, Bowles evened the match with a kill.
“I thought defensively we played well and stepped up. One of their girls was trying to work the lines so I was reading her,” said O’Neill who repeatedly made digs and bumps from the back line.
Back in it, the Bruins found their rhythm late in the third set to pull away. Ponderosa had enjoyed an early lead after Banke’s one-set to Lauren Williams but separated on the strength of long runs on serve from Christensen and Rader. Bowles’ deflected kill, block, second-touch hit at the net and kill down the line sat the Bruins a set away.
“Once we got confidence and warmed up we got on a roll,” Christensen said. “That last game was one of our best.”
The athletic Eagles didn’t go quietly and turned to the hitting of Alexis Johnson, Danielle Ragland, Kayla Williams and Sumeet Gill to stay close. Ponderosa, mixing finesse with power, moved in front on Banke’s dump to the middle and Bowles’ ace but the hosts couldn’t detach on the scoreboard.
Erika Sullivan’s soft rolling shot to the middle put Pleasant Grove up 22-21 before Eagle mistakes and Rader’s kill and ace closed the night.
“I’m thrilled we came back … we had energy, we talked and we fought — that’s a good sign,” Bruin coach Sheri Millhollin said. “We’re still learning you have to show up and play hard every night and that the other team wants to win (too). Pleasant Grove brought about as good a first game as you can when playing on someone else’s court.”
“The girls were very coachable tonight and started hitting smarter. We won that fourth game because we placed the ball with our finesse game,” Millhollin added.
Statistically, Bowles had 14 kills and Rader, 10. Christensen had 12 assists to nine for Banke; Christensen served up three aces while Bowles landed two; O’Neill had 27 serve receives and 24 digs; Bowles 26 serve receives and nine digs; and Rader had 15 digs and nine serve receives.
Monday’s win was Ponderosa’s first on its home court in just its second appearance. The Bruins are now 1-1 in the Delta River League and face Oak Ridge tonight down in El Dorado Hills.
Notes: The Lady Bruins will hold their “Dig Pink” Cancer Awareness event Oct. 22 when they host Oak Ridge. Ponderosa is also looking at Oct. 19 as a fundraising event when the varsity team takes on the teacher’s staff after school in the main gym.