Providence took a giant step in achieving that goal Friday when it dismantled host Pilibos, 25-11, 26-24, 25-12, in an opening-round match that took 54 minutes.
"It was very disappointing for a lot of us that we finished third in our league," Providence senior outside hitter Bedros Atmajian said. "It wasn't where we wanted to be.
"But we are hoping that we are going to be able to go far in the playoffs. We want to make it to the final four, and maybe even further."
The Pioneers (13-8) will take on the winner of the Salesian-Cate match. If Salesian (12-4; runner-up from the Santa Fe League) wins, Providence would play its second-round contest at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home.
"We beat Salesian in five games earlier in the season," Providence Coach James Jimenez said.
Although the Pioneers ? ranked seventh in the division ? didn't exactly receive a favorable draw, they wanted to began the postseason strongly and build momentum for upcoming contests.
Despite coming into the match with a Valley League championship under its belt, Pilibos (10-6) was no match for the more-athletic Pioneers.
Providence dominated play at the net and baffled the Eagles with its offensive attack.
"When we had three outside hitters out there at the same time, it really confused [Pilibos], and I don't think they knew how to handle that," Jimenez said.
All-CIF senior outside hitter Alex Knopper continually battered the Eagles with a barrage of high-velocity kills. He had a match-high 13 kills and three aces. Atmajian added seven kills.
Senior setter Jeff Kurges also did his part, collecting 23 assists and 10 digs.
Kurges said although his teammates realized Pilibos doesn't compete in a league with many tough teams, it was important to not take the Eagles lightly.
"I think this was a good match to get us ready for the rest of the playoffs," he said. "But we know we are going to have to play against harder teams from now on."
Providence began the match like a team on a mission. Kurges served the Pioneers to a 7-0 lead and they weren't pushed much in the first game.
It was a different story in the second game, however, as mistakes almost proved costly for the Pioneers.
The Eagles led for most of the game and had a chance to close it out with a 24-22 lead. But Providence fought off the game-point, as a Knopper kill and a stuff block by Housep Oghlian tied the game at 24. A Knopper tap over the net put the Pioneers ahead and a Pilibos error gave Providence a 2-0 advantage.
"We showed what we could do in that second game," Jimenez said. "And we showed in that second game how we can lose our focus some times. "We have to be focused in every game."