The La Quinta Blackhawks volleyball team passed their first tough test in the second round of the Desert Valley League regular season play Thursday night, taking down Palm Springs 25-19, 25-16, 24-26, 25-14 and staying in control of a share of the DVL title.
The Blackhawks still have to face Xavier Prep at home Monday before a match at Palm Desert Wednesday that could act as a title-deciding battle.
It’s not an easy road, but La Quinta coach Ronda Sommaripa said she gets the most out of her girls when it’s all on the line.
“It’s a lot more fun to play really competitively,” she said. “It’s just really good volleyball.”
And Thursday, when the Indians pressed, the Blackhawks played their best volleyball, too.
Both sides started slowly in a first set filled with errors. The Indians led early at 7-5 but couldn’t ever really find any momentum. Still, they hung around at 20-18 before a trio of La Quinta points closed things out.
But the Blackhawks would respond, coming out on fire in the second set, grabbing a 6-0 lead on solid service games from Kyrsti Photias, who scored two aces in the run. The lead would get as large as 12 at 15-3, as the Indians offense looked unorganized and flustered.
The Blackhawks started strong early in the third too at 16-6 and looked primed to put things away quickly after a five-set loss to the Indians a few weeks prior.
Somehow, the Blackhawks found fire with the serving of Angelina Pinkney, winning seven-straight points, with winners from five different players.
A similar run with Elena Eckhardt behind the back line just minutes later sparked a six-point tear that tied things at 22-apiece before the Indians took the set.
But in the huddle before the decisive fourth set, Sommaripa said one of her players said something that ignited the final run.
“One of the girls said ‘This is what you’re made of. This is where your heart is. It’s not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard that shows your heart. It’s all heart,’ ” she said. “I feel like that totally was a game-changer.”
And after they took a 15-4 lead in the fourth, it certainly was.
Still, Sommaripa said her squad isn’t one to focus on the title share that’s in their hands, though her eyes lit up and the mention of it after Thursday’s match.
It was an emotional victory, but she made the message clear to the Blackhawks in a post-game pep-talk.
“I just told them ‘Guys, don’t even think about the next match,” she said. “Just take it practice by practice, game by game.”