The Mission Prep girls volleyball team didn’t start fast.
But when it got down to crunch time, the Royals finished swiftly in a 25-22, 27-25, 25-22 CIF-Southern California Division V playoff home win over Pacifica Christian on Tuesday.
Trailing 20-17 in the first game, after already having been down by as many as five points earlier, Royals coach Michelle Lakey called a timeout to settle her team down.
“I told the team, ‘We’re beating ourselves,’” Lakey said. “We had six serving errors to that point and five hitting errors. That’s what caused us to be in that position.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Royals (27-6) won eight of the next 10 points en route to a first-game victory.
The second game started much the same as the first, with Mission Prep falling behind early.
“They were definitely fighting for it,” Mission Prep middle hitter Danielle Brescia said.
The Royals eventually took their first lead of the second game at 16-15. After an Andrea Fernandez kill for Mission Prep, the Sea Wolves took the next five points to claim a 20-17 lead.
But the Royals again battled back down the stretch, fighting off Pacifica Christian’s lone game point of the match on a kill by Brescia. Tied at 25, Sadie Casacca drove home one of her six kills to give Mission Prep its second game point.
Brescia led the Royals with a match-high 14 kills, adding three digs and two aces.
Pacifica Christian (20-9) couldn’t handle Brescia early, as she collected 10 kills in the first two games and adjusted by sending players further back in an attempt to nullify her power.
With the defenders playing off, Brescia found success with a light tip over the blockers on several occasions.
“They were definitely pulled further back and we saw that and read it,” Brescia said. “Thank God it worked repeatedly. It was nice to use it that often.”
Although she was having success with the tip, Brescia said that as a power hitter, she oftentimes struggles to play a finesse game.
“It’s so hard (to not hit with power),” Brescia said. “I get super excited whenever it’s a good set and I know I can connect. But if you see the block and know you can’t hit around it then the tip is your best option.”
After losing two narrow games, some of the fight seemed to leave Pacifica Christian early on in game three.
Brescia and Fernandez powered Mission Prep to a 15-9 lead to start the third game. Facing five match points down 24-19, Pacifica Christian rallied for three points before bowing out.
Fernandez finished with eight kills, six digs and three blocks while Casacca added a team-high 10 digs.
The Royals, seeded second in the Southern California region of the state championships, will host the winner of Saddleback Valley Christian and San Diego Jewish Academy on Saturday.
“It’s wonderful (not having to travel),” Lakey said. “Especially during the holidays. It’s nice to be here and we can practice here the day before. We’re home in our environment and it’s very fun.”
Brescia said she was just happy to continue playing, regardless of where the matches take place.
“I didn’t want this to be my last game,” Brescia said. “It’s really important for our team to keep playing and we want to keep winning at home.”