Poise under Pressure

Outside hitter Ally Bierschenk (facing) tips the ball over Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s Katherine Collins (left) and Ferryn Drake in the Gold Division semifinals at the Falcon Classic.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Pali High Girls Volleyball Reaches Semifinals at Crescenta Valley Tournament

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

It may not have walked away with the trophy, but Palisades High’s varsity volleyball team left La Crescenta last Saturday afternoon with something even more valuable: experience.    

Having won the Venice Invitational championship two weeks earlier, the Dolphins arrived at the Falcon Classic full of confidence, which was boosted by going 3-0 in pool play on Friday, sweeping Mayfield (25-22, 25-17), Hoover (25-9, 25-13) and Oxnard (25-12, 25-12) to win its group. A second round of pool play commenced Saturday morning at Crescenta Valley High and after soaring past City Section rival Cleveland, 25-23, 27-25 and Righetti, 25-19, 25-13, Palisades was brought down to earth by La Salle, which went on to capture the tournament title. Still, the Dolphins advanced to the Gold bracket and found themselves matched against South Pasadena in the playoffs.    

Palisades looked overmatched early in the first set as the Tigers built a huge lead, but the Dolphins stormed back on the serving of Annie Eckert and Jalyn Johnson and stole the first set, 25-22. The Tigers took the second set by the same score, setting up a winner-take-all third set to 15 points.

Setter Kaia Kanan served an ace to give Palisades a match point at 15-14, but a kill by Abigail Gardner kept South Pasadena alive. The next point was the longest of the match, but freshman Tara Gaspar came through with a kill to the open court and Ally Bierschenk ended it on the next point with a left-side kill.

“They were acting rowdy and that fueled us to end the trash they were talking,” Bierschenk said. “It’s good to get this far. We didn’t even make the Gold Division last year so we had no expectations.”

In the semifinals the Dolphins appeared to be outclassed by Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, dropping the first set 25-13, but they dominated the second 25-10 before losing the third, 15-9. Gaspar even made All-Tournament.

“We showed we can play with a lot of high-level teams,” Coach Carlos Gray said. “Beating South Pasadena was a big deal with two sophomores and two freshmen on the court. We’ve made progress.”