If you ask the Pine Creek volleyball players and coaches how good the Eagles are this season, there is no definitive answer quite yet. But Liberty sure knows how good their District 20 rivals are.
In a battle of unbeaten teams in the 5A Metro on Thursday night, Pine Creek invaded the Lancers’ gym and breezed its way through a 25-14, 25-12, 25-18 win.
Pine Creek (12-3, 3-0 5A Metro) has built its volleyball program into a state power in recent years, but with a new coach and so many young players in the mix this season nobody knows how good this squad will be.
“I think we’ve continued to improve; we had a little dip about six matches ago, but the girls are stepping up at the time when you want to later in the season,” said first-year Pine Creek coach Rick Mischka. “Our goal right now is to get better every match until we play Doherty.”
Doherty has not only become the measuring stick for teams in the city, but the entire state. While the Eagles know they must wait until the last game of the season on Oct. 24, they all have an eye toward the Spartans.
“During the matches we’re definitely focused on whoever we’re playing, but our practices are geared toward moving closer to Doherty,” said senior Tiegen Skains, who had seven kills, three aces and two blocks. “We’re hitting well and we’ve had some injuries but almost everyone is back now and we’re playing at a high level.”
Pine Creek has won six straight matches and looks to be the top contender to knock Doherty off in conference play.
On Thursday night the Eagles controlled play throughout, with the exception of the beginning of each game. Pine Creek’s power was most evident in the second game when the Eagles, trailing 10-7, put together 12 straight points to blow open the game and match.
“We had struggled a bit with our serving, but tonight we had 18 aces and really stepped it up,” said Mackenzie Swan, who had five of Pine creek’s aces. “When you play bigger teams and you serve that well you take them out of system.”
This Pine Creek team – which starts four sophomores – isn’t worried about the successes of its predecessors. The players may be young, but they’re making their own mark.
“This team doesn’t have it in their mind that they need to go live up to anything; they are just playing well together,” Mischka said.
For Liberty (9-8, 2-1), a positive to take away from the match was its ability to get out of the gate quickly. The Lancers were the aggressors early in each game, but faltered.
“We came out strong and got ahead of them, but then we tapered off,” said first-year Liberty coach Danielle Miller. “We need to learn to play better and keep going uphill. But Pine Creek is a good team and we respect them.”