For one set, the Pitman High volleyball team appeared unstoppable. The Pride were executing sets, coming up with digs and earning kills when they needed them. And this was all against Golden Valley High, their main challenger for the Central California Conference title.
“The first game they beat us tonight was as well as anybody played against us all year,” Golden Valley coach Matt Thissen pointed out.
In fact, it was the fourth consecutive set that the Pride had dominated the Cougars.
But that cycle ended in Wednesday night’s showdown of the top two teams in the CCC, as the Cougars redeemed themselves by finishing the match in four games (8-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-17). And much of the credit went to Reina Sykes, who was a one-woman show for Golden Valley and collected 15 kills, seven blocks, 18 digs and 22 digs.
It also put aside Golden Valley’s previous showing with the Pride, who knocked out the Cougars in three straight sets on Oct. 4.
With Wednesday’s victory, the Cougars made the chase for the CCC trophy an interesting one. Both Golden Valley and Pitman are now tied for first place with 8-3 records, with four matches remaining in the regular season.
In other words, the Pride can end the season with a share of the league title if both teams don’t lose the rest of the way.
After the loss, the Pitman players were ready to move on.
“It’s disappointing,” Ashley Solis said, while helping her teammates take down the net inside the Pitman High gym, where dozens of fans attended the match, “because now we’re in a tie for league. We really wanted to take it all. We need to practice hard and be ready for our games next week.”
Solis had 11 kills, 12 digs and three aces, while teammates Annabel Perez (25 assists), Maci Murdock (three blocks), Lauren Sangster (12 digs) also contributed. Those four, along with their teammates, looked unstoppable in the first game as they captured it in 25-8 fashion.
But the Cougars never let up.
They survived a late-game rally in the second set, in which the Pride came back from a 3-point deficit to tie it up at 25-25 before falling short. Pitman produced more rallies in the final two games, but the Cougars were just too much.
“It was inconsistency. Just mistakes, you know. Errors here and there, and that’s what killed us in the end,” said coach Kristen Pontes, whose Pride are fighting to improve their No. 9 position in the Sac-Joaquin Division I power rating. “I’ll give it to Golden Valley, they played great. They played very consistent. They rarely made a mistake and they kept the ball in play. And they fought hard.
“I mean, they were all over the place.”
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