Pitman and Hilmar football won't square off on the field this year, but at least their top-notch varsity volleyball teams were able to take their match to the court this Monday in the annual Foundation game.
Although the game doesn't count towards either teams record for the regular season, the game provides an opportunity for each coach to get a good assessment of their group in a real-game scenario, including player announcement and a rowdy full student section for Hilmar.
The Yellowjackets, who are Division-IV Section runner-ups the last three consecutive years, were hosting the back-to-back Division-I Section champions, Pitman Pride, in a game that didn't go in favor of the 'Jackets, but rather in favor of the powerful Pride that ended 3-0 (25-21, 25-16 and 25-21).
“It’s always a rocky start with the first game jitters. Hilmar always has a strong home presence with their students and it’s good to have our girls experience that early on,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian. “There is a lot to work, they played well together as a team and we struggled there.”
“Pitman's program is awesome but these girls... this new team with the freshman and sophomores, juniors and seniors, they are getting after it,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris.
Hilmar's Mariah Ahid finished with 11 kills. Hannah Pearce tallied 17 assists for the Yellowjackets and freshman Olivia Peterson finished with a team-high four aces.
Senior Kassidy Mendes and freshman Julia Gonsalves each finished with 11 digs apiece and Erin Benning added a pair of blocks.
Pitman didn't report any stats for this game.
“I just knew it would take this team a little while to mesh. Yes we lost to Pitman, but I am so proud on how we played because this is what we’ve been working on in preseason with tough matches,” said Harris.
The Pitman Pride is not only tough, they are an established program, one that coach Pontes-Christian is very proud of and one that can compete at the highest level in the state against any team. Or so has been the case the last several years, especially the last two years that have brought the blue CIF Sac-Joaquin Section banner into the Pitman gym wall, including a 2014 Nor-Cal title.
“It was 3-0 but I feel we made a lot of mistakes on our side that we typically don't and again, just some fine tuning we need to do,” said Pontes-Christian. “But we did get the jitters out and nerves with our new season and new set of girls. But Hilmar never let up. They played hard and it’s what we needed.”
Despite missing a few starters due to injuries, including Whitney Barnes, the Pride did manage to maintain their steady consistent flow and played up to par when needed, but Hilmar never looked depleted.
Hilmar progressed steady as the game moved forward, never regressing, while Pitman found a few rough patches in the third and final set.
“It was a little bumpy up and down but when we were up we did well, but others where we didn't do as well, but focusing on the good moments and making them more consistent,” said Pontes-Christian.
Pitman never trailed in the first set, however did allow Hilmar to tie it at 20-20 before pulling away with a 5-1 run.
Hilmar led Pitman just once in the second set with a 9-7 score but never led again as Pitman went on an 18-7 rally to win it, setting up a third game to win it all.
“With a new team, you have to see how the team reacts, if they give up under pressure but they seemed to be communicating well and never letting up,” said Harris. “The game wasn't a blowout. Pitman is a super strong team but they didn't give up and played hard, their team bonding is coming together.”
The third game was more dramatic than anybody anticipated after Hilmar rallied from down by as many as six points, but went on a 7-1 run to make it 20-20 once again before the machine that is Pitman went on a cruising 5-1 run to clinch the victory in straight sets.
“We have a tough schedule again, individually we have the talent, we have the experience, it’s just putting it all together on the court and we have a lot to work on,” Pontes-Christian added. “Everyone is going to play us hard. We will never get an easy point.”
“I can say our girls were satisfied,” Harris added. “We have some things we need to work on like serving but every time we play this team seems to be getting better. They are finding their mojo. Sometimes it takes teams longer but they are starting to get there.”