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Central hands Pitman straight-set loss
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Pitman High senior Cierra Verdone gets down for a dig during Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Central High of Fresno from the Pride gym. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The Pitman Pride varsity volleyball team is not off to the start they wanted, but they are still growing and learning after every match—including Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Central High of Fresno, the defending Central Section CIF Division-I champions.

“We knew they would be stacked. They have five seniors going to play college ball,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian.  

Central is not only loaded with college level talent, but they are coming off a memorable 41-3 record last fall that saw them not only win a section title, but also earn a berth into the CIF state tournament.

They finished the year ranked No. 11 in California, as well as No. 59 in the nation according to

“We knew that Central is loaded, we’ve been trying to have this preseason game for four years or so and we finally made it work and they came to us, with hopes of us going there next year,” said Pontes-Christian.

This time it was all Central, at least for majority of the first two sets.

Pitman was dealing with the absence of leader Emma Hirschkorn and had a different setter—sophomore Haley Freeman.

Freeman finished with a team-high 16 assists that were all well-earned.

“I assigned Haley Freeman the captain and she was very vocal, she stepped up, but it’s tough having a senior setter go down,” said Pontes-Christian. “Again, we showed some good things but also some weaknesses and things we have to focus on, we need to play consistent defense and we need to have better servicing passing and quicker offense and we need to mix it up more. So those are the things that showed.”

The opening set saw Central come out and handle Pitman with ease in route to a 25-15 win.

In the second set, things got interesting as Pitman got some rallies going that saw the score at 19-14 with Central leading.

This caused a timeout to be called by Central and they came out and bounced back to win the set 25-16.

Pitman then got up early on Central in the third set and it was a back and forth battle that saw some of the best rallies and points scored for the entire match.

The bench and the Pride student section began to cause an uproar after they saw the score tied on seven different occasions in the third set alone.

With the score tied at 18 apiece, one team began to pull away.

Central went on to outscore Pitman 7-4 to end the game in straight sets.

Madison King finished with a pair of aces. Maddy Hall tallied nine digs.

Emily Vander Weide and Cierra Verdone finished with a team-high eight kills apiece.

“We lost most of our DS’s, so we are still trying to build the younger girls because they are used to slower volleyball and this is obviously very quick and good hitters that are very powerful so we are focusing on that, we are working on that,” Pontes-Christian added.

Pitman’s next game will be at home against Oakdale at 6 p.m. Thursday.