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Hilmar volleyball surges to semifinal bout after sweeping Calaveras
Hilmar volley
Danielle Couchman [left] and Mariah Ahid [right] get a solid block against a Calaveras opponent in Thursdays quarterfinal win. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The tables are set for what should be one of the most exciting volleyball matchups for Hilmar High all year long after defeating Calaveras in straight sets on Thursday, 3-0, in the quarterfinal round of the Division-V CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

“I am nervous every game. You don’t know what your girls will bring, if they will be that team or the other and it’s for every coach,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris about Thursday’s win.

Eager for a return to the Section finale, the only thing left for Hilmar to do is defeat the No. 3 seeded team Bear River when they meet next week in the semifinal round.

It won’t be an easy task as Bear River openly expressed strong feelings towards their seeding in the bracket, making this matchup that much more exciting between both sides.

If Hilmar looks to stand a chance, they will have to play better than how they did on Thursday.

It wasn’t the best of performances from Coach Harris’ Yellowjacket team that was led by Emily Baptista, recent University of Pacific signee.

Baptista, who has seen better days, was not at full strength against Calaveras for whatever reason, although she started on fire.

Hilmar’s first four points were all tacked on by Baptista’s four straight kills before she cooled off a bit.

Calaveras hung in the match, but backed by Baptista’s 19 kills and 14 digs, the opposing side found it difficult, trying to contest against the 6-foot-2 Hilmar standout.

“Emily is a finisher and she has allowed us to go so far because she is a finisher,” Harris said of Baptista.

Aside from her consistency offensively, Baptista also tallied two solo blocks.

In the first set, Hilmar went on a 4-2 run to close it out before Baptista nailed the set winning point in the second to take a 2-0 lead.

Erin Benning had what looks like her best match of the season. Benning told her coach she was feeling, ‘it’ and didn’t disappoint. She finished with five kills, two blocks and no errors for the match.

“She played great,” Harris said of Benning. “Really, we were a bit flat tonight again, sometimes when we're pressured then we come out ready to play but we played so many pressured games this season, we were able to handle it.”

 Hilmar will next face the No. 3 team in Bear River at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday.