Missed passes, poor sets, bad defense.
It seemed as if Bakersfield Christian was acting out the proverbial "happy to be here" storyline early in its CIF state volleyball playoff game Tuesday against Santa Barbara-Laguna Blanca.
But then the Eagles woke up, shook off a lousy start at home and grinded past the Owls, winning 25-27, 29-27, 25-21, 25-15 to advance to the Southern California Division IV semifinals on Saturday.
"I tried to light a fire in them," BCHS coach Mystie Goodban said. "I said, 'What do you want to leave behind this year? Do you want to stay home after tonight?'"
The Eagles fell behind 10-1 in the opening game in most ugly fashion, with most points short and ending in BCHS errors or uncontested Laguna Blanca kills. But BCHS (28-4) rallied behind three Shannon Foy aces and eventually tied the game at 24.
Laguna Blanca (17-5) held on to win the game, but the tide had turned.
"Before that second game, we just said we needed more fire," junior setter Jayann De Hoog said. "We needed more heart to win the game."
Game 2 was a battle, too; it featured 20 ties and 10 lead changes and wasn't decided until a Gigi Wilkins kill and a De Hoog ace broke one final deadlock at 27-27.
De Hoog finished with 45 assists and a couple of crafty dump kills, and the Eagles controlled the proceedings from that point. A 4-0 run closed a back-and-forth Game 3, and BCHS jumped to a 13-4 lead in the fourth set.
"After Thursday, we were on such an emotional high (from winning the Central Section championship," Goodban said. "I think we were a bit drained. I was worried about how we would come out. ... But after that first win, we got some momentum and belief. We knew we were the better team; we just needed to show it."
The Eagles, seeded third in the SoCal D-IV bracket, will travel to No. 2 San Juan Capistrano-Saddleback Valley Christian for Saturday's regional semifinals at 7 p.m.
Bakersfield Christian, which won a state championship in Division V in 2006, hadn't been to the state playoffs since 2008, also the last year the Eagles won a section title.
"State is icing on the cake until the next game," De Hoog said. "Then it's all business again. We want to go to state. Our school is wonderful. We have a bunch of school spirit, and it pumps us up. We want to win for the whole school."
They're also doing it with a starting lineup that includes just one senior, Foy. De Hoog and libero Savannah August, who had 28 digs, are juniors; Phoebe Graham and Sonia Visser (9 kills, 3 aces) are sophomores; and Isabella Bouma (18 kills, 5 blocks) and Wilkins (12 kills, 14 digs) are freshmen.
"We rely heavily on those freshman hitters, and they've been stellar," De Hoog said. "That means a lot for next year."
But first, there is business to attend to in Southern California, this week, with a young team that showed it can shake off a slow start.
"We're excited to represent the Central Section and to be the only team left playing in Bakersfield," Goodban said. "We're representing our school and Bakersfield."