After Tuesday night's straight-set victory over Pittsburg, the Patriots improved to 7-6 in league play, firmly in fifth place. While displaying its youth at times, Heritage has also shown an ability to compete through adversity and raise its level of play to match the opponent. Those are primary reasons that head coach Janet Hannigan feels confident about the way her team can finish down the stretch, despite tough upcoming matches with league leaders Carondelet and Deer Valley.
The Patriots' toughness and intensity has helped them rise to the challenge in recent weeks. After a five-set loss to Clayton Valley early in the season, Heritage rebounded to defeat the Eagles in five sets in their next match. The Patriots fought tough against Monte Vista this previous weekend at the Northgate Tournament, losing in close sets to one of the top 10 teams in the North Coast Section. Then there is the victory over the Lions, one of the most respected and powerful teams in both the league and the section.
"Liberty played very well in our match against them," said Coach Hannigan. "We just had great intensity the first two sets, let it slide a little as they came back, and then got it back again in the fifth set."
The win over Liberty has proven that the BVAL is no longer just a three-team league, as it was for the past few years, and that Heritage is a program on the rise. One thing the young Patriots are still working on, however, is consistency. That work-in-progress manifested itself following the win over Liberty, when the Patriots fell in four sets to the current fourth-place team, Antioch.
"We didn't play well against Antioch following the win over Liberty. We need to remember how to approach each opponent the same," stated Hannigan. "I have complete confidence that this mentality will be there soon."
At this point, the Patriots are 4-3 against Division II competition, the school's classification for the North Coast Section playoffs. But with Carondelet still looming in the division, a .500 record seems likely, as does an even record in league play barring a possible upset over the Cougars or Deer Valley.
What it all adds up to is that the Patriots will likely be on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff selection time. According to Hannigan, the league losses to Clayton Valley and Antioch were the biggest blows, along with an early loss to Freedom. Heritage had a chance to avenge that loss this Thursday, although results of the game were not available when the Press went to print.
Either way, the Patriots have proven that the consistency they are seeking has at least come to fruition in their second consecutive year among the top teams in the BVAL. With many of the players returning next season, the foundation has been laid for making the next step forward.