The stakes were high, the energy was electric and the Pitman Pride band played loud and with as much enthusiasm as they could when the Turlock volleyball squad came to the Pride gym to square off in the first league meeting of the season on Tuesday night.
Pitman was coming off a losing streak of five games and itching to climb back into the winning column, while Turlock is off to one of the best starts in program history.
Both student sections chanted, yelled and cheered on their respective squads with unmatched enthusiasm as the momentum swayed back and forth in drastic fashion, but in the end the Bulldogs managed to top the Pride in straight sets, 3-0, (25-14, 26-24 and 25-17).
“We did some things well, but some other things were not so well. Izzy (Bush) had an amazing match and she dominated the floor in the middle,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian. “We weren’t expecting that, we were focused on the outsides.”
“Our girls came out fearless, played aggressive, big sweeps, served aggressively, everything we asked… they did,” said Turlock head coach Amber Lugo.
Turlock is off to a 6-0 start in the Central California Conference while Pitman drops to 4-2. Since the 2011 season, the Pride of Pitman have only had one two-loss season in league.
It also didn’t help that the Pride dealt with their third injured player on Tuesday night in senior Grace Willming, who went down in the third set and never returned.
Already without Whitney Barnes and Kaylin Randhawa, two highly recruited Division-I athletes, the Pride are now without another senior, leaving a herd of junior players to lead the squad.
“… when a teammate goes down it is very tough to deal with, especially in the third set,” said Pontes-Christian.
By that point, Pitman was down after Turlock took the first two sets
The first set was a convincing victory for Turlock after they pulled away with an 11-point victory to take the early momentum.
In the second set, both sides and the gym saw one of the more dramatic sets played between the two after Turlock took a seven-point lead. Pitman rallied to tie it at 18-18.
“Second set was ours to have, but we made mistakes and we let them come back, missed opportunities,” said Pontes-Christian.
This led to over three timeouts called in the closing points of the match.
There were three more draws during the second until Turlock managed to get the final two points for the win.
“It’s good, what is next. It is one day at a time, day by day is how we planned this season, I gave them a great analogy, you are stepping up the mountain, but it is one step at a time, if our girls do that, they can do it if they just take it one step at a time,” said Lugo.
Turlock closed out the third with 9-4 rally to end the match, defeating Pitman in straight sets for the first time in program history.
“Can only do what we can, we will work with what we have and continue to get better the next day,” Pontes-Christian added.
Pitman will next take on Atwater on the road at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Turlock will next travel on the road to take on El Capitan at 6 p.m. Thursday.