The Templeton Eagles and Paso Robles Bearcats faced off on Thursday night, Oct. 17, in what is a new but fun girls volleyball rivalry that lived up to the hype. The Templeton student section, a.k.a. The Wingmen, brought it once again as they have all season this time with a “pink out” as Templeton showed their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the THS volleyball team.
The energy in the gymnasium for both sides was palpable as it was also a must-win game for the Bearcats who had dropped their previous game to Righetti in heartbreaking fashion, making their climb toward the top of the Mountain League much more difficult. The young Eagles fought hard and never quit but ultimately the eight seniors in crimson proved too poised, winning the game 3-1.
The Bearcats came out in the first set and took care of business, leading wire-to-wire even while chants from the student section pelted them each time they took the ball back to the end line to serve. PRHS senior setter Becca Stroud had it going early as she was dishing out perfect sets to her two powerful outside hitters Phoebe Corgiat and Olivia Wright while Sophie Prieto, the libero, hit the ground numerous times to dig out a would-be point.
While the Bearcats had the lead the Eagles kept fighting and started developing some confidence in their defense, most specifically their block, which started giving the ‘Cats fits. Templeton’s senior captain Hope Erwin and Rachel Stockwell formed a solid wall of arms and fingers and it took the Bearcats a few games to adjust. After trailing the entire first game, the Eagles came out and led nearly the entire second game jumping out to a commanding 7-2 lead that forced Paso Robles head coach Caleb Ferguson to call his first timeout of the evening.
The break in the action settled Paso down a bit and they were able to claw their way back into the game closing to 11-10 but it wasn’t enough. Templeton sophomore setter and second team captain, Asia Pollina, scored a couple of crucial points late in the game on fantastic dumps that left everyone in attendance wondering if she had eyes in the back of her head. Like a point guard in basketball Pollina led her Eagles over the Bearcats in the second set, perfectly putting her girls in positions to win and Templeton took the second set 25-20.
“We let a lot of stuff drop that we shouldn’t have let drop in that first and second set,” Ferguson said following the game. “And then from there, we made some adjustments but even in the third set it was not the best volleyball we can play.”
Game three was the closest of the four. Multiple rallies made it over the net eight, nine and even 10 times as the crowd went crazy with each diving save. With the game tight, both sides started getting a bit on-edge and chirping toward the officials which eventually earned Ferguson a yellow card early in the third game when he felt several calls did not go the Bearcats way.
Both teams seized the lead for some time in game three but in the end, it was the Bearcats who earned the 25-23 victory riding a wave of momentum that started when they trailed 19-16 and carried through to game four which they won handily.
“We started off pretty strong in the beginning,” Stroud said. “We came back and ended up winning the first set and kind of gave up a little bit at the end. “The second set, we were really inconsistent and started kind of playing not to lose instead of playing to win and then we picked it up in the third even though it was still close and then we did a lot better in the fourth, so that was good.”
The Bearcats are in the midst of a four-game road trip to end the regular season and are 1-1 through two games with the two most difficult and important games of the season remaining. Paso Robles plays at SLO on Oct. 22 and at Arroyo Grande on Thursday. While Arroyo Grande is currently in first place, it might be the game against the Tigers that is the most important as both teams are in Division 2. The Bearcats will be hungry to beat the Tigers on their floor after losing in five sets to the Tigers in September.