An aura of invincibility no longer surrounds the Arroyo Grande High girls volleyball team.
Last week, San Luis Obispo edged the Eagles in a five-game match that handed Arroyo Grande its first league loss since 2005. That one, however, wasn’t at James Gym, where visiting Paso Robles broke through Tuesday night, winning a 3-1 match 25-21, 25-17, 18-25, 26-24.
Prior to last year, the Eagles hadn’t even fallen in a game until Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo took one apiece, breaking what had been a streak of 104.
“Everybody has this mystique about going to A.G. and playing A.G.,” 10th-year Bearcats coach Terry Gutierrez said. “Last year, our big accomplishment was taking a game from them, but we were home (in that match).”
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During its four-year reign, Arroyo Grande made appearing in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1-A rankings commonplace, and sent players on to the college ranks, such as Olivia Trudeau, now a starting setter at Seton Hall.
“This was amazing,” Paso Robles senior outside hitter Tess Rountree said of the win. “It was a good accomplishment.”
Prior to knocking off Arroyo Grande (8-3, 3-2 PAC 7), San Luis Obispo (14-4, 4-0) had swept Paso Robles (10-3, 3-1) last week, helping to catapult the Tigers into the No. 9 spot in this week’s Division 1-A poll.
Seeing San Luis Obispo go on to defeat the Eagles only helped the Bearcats figure they could do the same, Gutierrez said.
Arroyo Grande coach Ernie Santa Cruz said this year’s Paso Robles squad is the best he has seen since about a half-decade ago, when Cal Poly recruit Ashleigh Bertoni was leading the way.
“I was impressed with their overall play,” Santa Cruz said. “Pretty much all night, they had a better match, and they deserved to win.“They put pressure on us, and we fought back to a point,” Santa Cruz said, “but they withstood us at the end.”
The fourth game was tied at 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 before the Bearcats prevailed, setting off a raucous on-court celebration.
Rountree had a match-best 17 kills and five digs, while Krista Broderick put down 10 kills. Emily Cone made six blocks in the win, and Kellie Reynolds distributed 32 assists.
Rountree, who last year cleared a school-record 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump during track and field season, entered this week leading the PAC 7 in hitting (31.9 percent), kills per game (3.4) and blocks per game (one).
“She’s a huge presence for our team,” Gutierrez said of the 6-foot third-year starter. “I know other teams, probably, when they prepare for us, they prepare for Tess.
“As a senior and as a captain, she’s doing a fantastic job as far as leadership goes and her stats show how well she’s playing.”
The Eagles’ sudden propensity to be beaten has the rest of the league feeling a newfound confidence in its prospects from here on out.
“A.G. has always been the obvious winner,” Rountree said of the past few seasons, “but this year it’s going to be a good (competitive) league season.
“We’re excited,” she said. “We have a chance.”Arroyo Grande graduated its kills leader from a year ago in Rachel Ventura, the PAC 7 MVP and San Luis Obispo County Player of the Year, who was fifth in the division in blocks.
But the Eagles did bring back a pair of all-county first-team seniors in libero Madi Ventura (who came into the week leading the PAC 7 with 5.9 digs per game) and setter Maggi Jo Keffury (No. 1 in the league with 9.6 assists per game).
Ventura had 28 digs Tuesday. Kendall Vandenberg had a team-leading 10 kills, while Nicole Leger had seven.
Santa Cruz took solace in the idea that the rest of the way, the Eagles may play with less of a target on their back and can now approach matches with less built-up pressure stemming from maintaining the streak.