The first half of this season couldn’t have gone much better for the San Luis Obispo High girls volleyball team.
The Tigers (16-4), ranked No. 10 in this week’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1-A poll, finished the first half of their PAC 7 schedule 6-0 on Tuesday night with a 25-11, 25-8, 25-12 sweep of Pioneer Valley.
The first round of league play had already seen San Luis Obispo hand Arroyo Grande its first PAC 7 loss since 2005 in a five-game match and sweep second-place Paso Robles.
Senior outside hitter Beth Hoyt had 10 kills and nine digs Tuesday.
Never miss a local story.
“This year when we came together, we had a lot of chemistry,” Hoyt said. “We felt really prepared, and we had that bond.”
In each of the past two years, the Tigers finished third in the PAC 7.
“We took down the top three teams (from last season’s standings),” coach Manny Carter said. “We want to get over that hump of taking third every year.”
Carter compared the early-season success to that of last year’s San Luis Obispo boys team, which he also coached. Indeed, there are similarities between both situations.
Last year’s boys volleyball scene in the PAC 7 had Arroyo Grande coming in defending an outright league title in 2008 and a shared championship in 2009, while Paso Robles had arguably the best standalone talent in 6-foot-5 outside hitter Cheyne Hayes.
But it was ultimately the Tigers who went 23-3 overall, advancing to the Division 2 quarterfinals.
On the girls side this year, along the lines of last year’s boys setup, Arroyo Grande entered as a four-time defending champion, while Paso Robles features the league’s kills leader in outside hitter Tess Rountree, already a two-time all-PAC 7 first-team honoree.
“I compare it to the boys because nobody expected either of these teams to be on top at this point,” Carter said. “They both came out as kind of the underdog.
“We were kind of flying under the radar. The girls are playing hard every day and having fun. I want us to win, but at the same time, having fun is what I think is the main part.”
The Tigers recently suffered a significant loss with a season-ending injury to outside hitter Jessica Chellsen, who was averaging a team-leading 2.6 kills per game and was second in the PAC 7 with a hitting percentage of 26.2.
But a deep attack has already been instrumental for San Luis Obispo, which has six other players putting down at least one kill per game.
“We’ve really come together,” said senior setter Kennedy Peters, who had 25 assists Tuesday.
“There’s not one person who wants to have all the kills. Nobody cares about their stats — we just like to share and work as a team.”
During Tuesday’s sweep of the Panthers, Elizabeth Culpepper added 10 kills, while Linnea Ramirez came up with 11 digs.
“We’re really confident right now,” Hoyt said, “but we know we still have to work hard.”
In this year’s first matchup with Arroyo Grande on Sept. 30, San Luis Obispo won 25-21, 25-20, 9-25, 17-25, 16-14. The sweep of the Bearcats two days earlier went 25-18, 25-17, 25-19.
The Tigers’ rematch against the Eagles will be Oct. 26, after the second meeting with Paso Robles on Oct. 21.
“We’re the ones everybody wants to beat,” Peters said of the effect of going undefeated through the first half of league competition. “So it’s going to be tougher in the second round.”