Mikayla Butzke, Becky McKinny
Mikayla Butzke, left, and Becky McKinny put up a block against an Arcadia hitter during the Chargers’ first-round playoff win on Thursday night. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Arcadia had Dos Pueblos on the verge of losing in the first two sets in Thursday’s CIF-SS Division 3 girls volleyball playoff opener at Sovine Gym.

The defensive-minded visitors dug DP attacks, served tough and had late leads in both sets. But the Chargers kept their poise, pulled through like champions and won both sets en route to a sweep.

The scores were 27-25, 25-23, 25-10.

Senior middle Becky McKinny put down 11 kills and made only one hitting error, sophomore Portia Sherman had nine kills and freshman Chloe Hoffman added eight to lead DP into Saturday’s second round at Notre Dame Academy.

The Chargers (22-14), co-champions of the Channel League, had their hands full in the early going and couldn’t shake Arcadia (21-12), the runner-up from the Pacific League. 

Led by libero Kaley Sarreal and outside hitter Alexandra Bierotte, the Apaches continually made plays to frustrate DP. They led 22-21 in the first set before the Chargers capitalized on a couple of errors and went on a 5-3 run to pull out the victory. 

“That was a great team all around,” said DP assistant coach Ehren Hug, who ran the team as head coach Megan O’Carroll was attending the wedding of a close friend in Mexico. “I heard we were going to struggle to get the ball to the floor and it was a struggle. That team was playing defense all over the place. I was super impressed. 

“Just proud of our girls for keep firing away and keep going after it.”

DP got a couple of breaks in its comeback as Arcadia was whistled for a net to tie the score at 23 and was called out of rotation after a timeout to give the Chargers a 24-23 lead. 

The Apaches got a block from Alicia Tsao and Monet Latunde and a deep shot from Tsao to knot the score at 25.

Breanna Babcock sided out for DP. On the next play,  Sherman picked up an Arcadia tip and setter Mikayla Butzke fed McKinny in the middle for a kill and the set-winning point.

Butzke and McKinny exploited the Arcadia middle all match, and Sherman got into the act in third set.

“Lately, Becky has been really showing up for us and since she’s showing up, I’ve decided to give her that chance,” said Butzke, who dished out 28 assists. “As long as she keeps producing like she is, I’m not going to stop giving it to her.”

Down 23-20 in the second set. Hoffman sided out by ripping a ball from the left side. Natali Flint then served four straight points to cap the comeback win. Flint started the run with an ace, Hoffman scored on a tip, Arcadia was called for a net and Butzke dumped the ball for the winning point.

Chloe Hoffman

Chloe Hoffman of Dos Pueblos hits past the Arcadia block. Hoffman had eight kills. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Butzke was impressed how the young DP players stepped up in their first playoff match. 

“It’s their first CIF game and you couldn’t even tell,” she said. “Chloe Hoffman, a freshman, was unfazed. She did great.”

Sophomore libero Erin Curtis picked up 16 digs to lead a balanced defensive effort, while fellow sophomores Flint and Sherman and 14 and 11 digs respectively.

Hug showed confidence in all his players, using several off the bench in the second-set comeback.

“I was out of timeouts and I was trying to slow it down a little bit,” he said. “I went to our bench and we got a ton of good production out of our bench.

“That was fun comeback for sure.”

Butzke said the team followed what O’Carroll has been telling them all season.

“We just harped on what she always says: ‘More energy, more focus.’ On every play, we brought it in, calmed down a little bit and just played,” said Butzke.

Noozhawk Sports Editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.