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Bulldogs, Jackets prepare for season with scrimmage
THS v Hilmar 1
Hilmars Olivia Peterson (left) goes up for a ball near the net during Wednesdays scrimmage against Turlock High. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Two of the Sac-Joaquin Sections best varsity volleyball programs squared off in a friendly scrimmage on Wednesday prior to the start of the regular season.

Turlock and Hilmar High have established themselves as powerhouses in the Sac-Joaquin Section, both finishing as runner-ups in their respective divisions during the 2016 season.

Turlock just finished their best season in program history, reaching the D-I final, while the Yellowjackets of Hilmar reached their fourth straight D-IV SJS Championship game in 2016.

Less than seven miles separate Turlock and Hilmar, but the camaraderie and friendships are all nearly identical.

“We love playing Hilmar, there are friends on the other side, there is family on the other side, there are strong ties,” said Turlock head coach Amber Lugo.

“It's fun, both Hilmar and Turlock like to play volleyball and they are very competitive,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “It is a lot of fun since some of them play club ball as well. It's fun and just a great atmosphere.”

Despite the school size discrepancy, the competition was an even keel.

Hilmar, which competes in D-IV for volleyball, took it to D-I Turlock, but the Bulldogs got the better end after exchanging points back and forth in a quick pace for the first 20 minutes.

“I always like playing teams of higher divisions. I like our girls to play tougher teams and it pushes our girls and makes us play harder and my team is very young with a lot of talent,” said Harris.

The electric atmosphere was also apparent with the bleachers nearly filled with 'Jackets and 'Dogs' supporters rooting on their powerful squads.

Wednesday was an opportunity for both sides to see another local power and compete with one another as they clean up the small technicalities prior to the start of this new year.

“Getting to see a top team in Hilmar is great,” said Lugo. “We have some bugs that need to be worked out, but they are looking good and moving the ball around more with Jadyn (Tubbs) as the libero, so that is more fun.”

Both sides swayed momentum in a game where the score or stats were not recorded.

Turlock was able to showcase its tremendous ability with returners such as Handy, Isabella Bush, Jadyn and Jazmyn Tubbs playing majority of the sets.

The official time played was under 50 minutes, while both sides also competed against Tracy and Enochs earlier in the day.

“They always save this one for last,” said Lugo about the finale with Hilmar. “We were moving the ball around and showing success all over, new combinations across the court, so getting used to that, and I felt we got our groove as the game carried on, but we had those hiccups.”

The biggest rally of the scrimmage came from the 'Dogs, who captured six straight points with the help of Handy assisting all but one of those points.

Hilmar came back to get four of the next six points, anchored by Hannah Pearce and Mariah Ahid.

“Season starts soon, but we have Los Banos and Pitman before that, so we have bigger schools to play,” Harris added. “But I like it, even if we lose, since it pushes us, we have two big tournaments before league starts as well, these girls will be playing a lot of ball and fixing the glitches.”

Turlock's first official game this year will be on the road against St. Mary's at 7 p.m. Monday.

Hilmar will take on Pitman in their annual Foundation Game at 7 p.m. at Pitman on Monday.