State - INACTIVE

Modesto knocks off Vintage in first round of volleyball playoffs

The Modesto High volleyball team swept all 15 of its Modesto Metro Conference matches this season.

The Panthers continued that streak while making school history Tuesday afternoon.

Modesto was in control from the opening serve in a 25-13, 25-22, 25-18 victory over Vintage of Napa in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs at Panther Palace. It was the first volleyball playoff victory in Modesto High School history.

"Thirty years; it's been a long time coming," Modesto coach Rene Lindberg said. "It's an exciting time for Modesto volleyball."

Modesto plays in a Thursday quarterfinal.

The Panthers advanced to the section playoffs last year but fell to Folsom in four games.

They weren't to be denied Tuesday.

"We were a little nervous," Modesto middle blocker Peka Pesaleli said. "But we had confidence we could win. This was a big match."

Pesaleli played a large role in the victory. Her top-spin serves kept the Crushers off-balance -- she had eight aces and 20 service points. And she controlled play at the net with five blocks.

Pesaleli helped break open a tight first game with six consecutive service points, boosting the Panthers to a 14-6 lead.

"It was important to get out to that fast start," Pesaleli said. "We kept it up after that."

They cruised through the first game, and the next two.

"The girls have worked hard," Lindberg said. "They really deserved that win."

They did it without key outside hitter Kaitlyn Klein, who rolled her ankle three weeks ago. Lindberg said it's a testament to the team's depth that they haven't missed a beat.

"Lindsay (Hover) stepped in and has done a great job," Lindberg said. "But really, everybody's stepped up. This isn't a one-person team; it took everybody to win. This is a special group."

Most of the fans Tuesday stuck around well after the match congratulating the players.

"We made history," Pesaleli said as she did a little dance. "It's just really exciting."

Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at wdeboard@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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