There would be no three-game sweep, no dominating the net, no double-digit margin of victory. It was a total turnaround from the last time Palm Springs High School took on Palm Desert in the first round of Desert Valley League play.
Palm Desert had other ideas for Thursday’s second meeting between the league’s two top volleyball teams.
It took five games, the first time the Indians have been pushed to the max in DVL play this year and the Indians held on for a 22-25, 25-13, 18-25, 25-22, 15-8 win. That puts Palm Springs in sole possession of first place in the league standings (7-0), while Palm Desert holds at second at 5-2, both losses to Palm Springs.
Palm Desert goes against Palm Springs in a DVL volleyball game held at Palm Desert High School Thursday evening, October 16, 2014.
Palm Desert wasn’t going down without a fight. Following Tuesday’s stunning shutout against La Quinta, the Aztecs carried momentum into this showdown and took the first game.
It went back and forth throughout.
“This came down to the desire and will to win,” said Palm Springs coach Gary Wilhoite, whose team won its 13th straight after starting the season 0-3. “They just wanted it so bad. We’ve gone though a lot of adversity in the past month — since the last time we played them. We haven’t had a full team out there, we’ve been sick, injured, had all the homecoming. It’s been smoke and mirrors.”
So while the Indians (13-3 overall) were finally at full strength, Palm Desert (13-9) continued going full out. Wilhoute said it was difficult to find a weakness in the Aztecs Thursday night.
“It just came down to a super team effort,” Wilhoite said of his squad.
Junior Ashtyn Lyneis, who led Palm Springs with 13 kills, five aces and 14 assists, said it was biggest back-and-forth match she’s witnessed this season.
“It was a roller coaster ride,” she said. “We had to pull each other up and it was a big challenge. Now we’re trying to get back into the swing of things and we’re healthy and together.
“We knew there was a lot on the line, especially because we beat them the last time. It was a tough challenge competing against them.”
Following a close Game 1, Palm Springs took command in Game 2 with solid play from Asia O’Neil (11 kills, two aces), Michaela Hissam (eight kills) and the all-around play of Mary Lake (six kills, three blocks, four aces, 25 assists).
The Indians led by as many as 10 points at the midway point and focused on each point despite big plays at the net from Palm Desert’s Savannah Sharp (17 kills, 13 digs), ball control from Morgan Dewyer (four skills, 12 digs, 36 assists) and strong defense from Courtney Calhoun (21 digs). Palm Springs was able to spread it around and close out the 25-13 win.
Palm Desert then took control in Game 3 and it stayed that way throughout. Strong serving from Dewyer sparked the Aztecs to the 25-18 win. Tara Sauerbrey (nine kills), Taylor Harvey (eight kills, three aces) and Serena Stockton (nine digs) registered key points while Hanka Eichelberger, Maggie Welsh, Breanna Kehayas and Hailey Buckin also chipped in.
It went back and fourth in Game 4 until at 10-all, O’Neil pounded down a point and Palm Springs inched ahead, keeping a two and 3-point lead toward the 25-22 win. Carisa Becerra (six kills, two blocks) made some timely points in the middle and Kaylie Edgar was solid all game with 12 of 12 passing along with 13 digs. Sarah White and Hannah Wright also chipped in.
In Game 5, a triple block in the middle from Becerra, Lyneis and Hissam broke a 5-5 deadlock and from there, it was all Palm Springs.
Palm Desert coach Rebecca Willis praised her team, noting that the Aztecs passing game was much improved from the last time the two met. However, the big points on big plays were negated by the mistakes made at crucial times. Both teams suffered there, but Palm Springs capitalized on Aztecs’ miscues in the end.
“I’m thrilled to see my girls step up and rise to the occasion,” she said. “They came in against La Quinta focused, came to practice focused and came in here focused. We’re gonna continue to surprise.
“This is one battle in the war of DVL and unfortunately we probably just locked up first place for them. Now we’ve gotta lock up second place for us.”