Pitman volleyball head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian said her team doesn't like to lose.
She was absolutely right and the Pride showed it during a historic Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game—against their crosstown rivals Turlock High.
Turlock and Pitman volleyball squared off for the very first time in a much-anticipated Section title game.
After a heated battle that saw momentum swing back and forth in the opening two sets, the Pride managed to win by two points each, and finally in the third set, Pitman went on a 6-1 run to close out the straight sets sweep and into the record books.
“It’s beyond me... it’s more than words I can say right now,” said Pontes-Christian about winning three straight Section titles. “Again, as I told the girls, it’s so much bigger than us, we are doing it for every past team and future team as well... it’s just all the hard work, we are always planning for Section, that is our goal. I'm so glad the girls pulled it off, they deserved it.”
While Turlock may have lost to their crosstown and league rivals, the season is already the best finish in the program's history, only the season isn't over for the Nor Cal State bound Bulldogs.
“Beyond proud... they have done what has never been done, Turlock has never been here, so how can you be disappointed? We are not disappointed, just proud,” said Turlock head coach Amber Lugo. “And state is just another tournament, they will bounce back from this, I have no doubt.”
Before state, the Bulldogs had to go through their crosstown rivals, Pitman, whom they met on the court for the third time this season after splitting the regular season record at 1-1.
The anticipation had been building as both squads pulled off upsets in the semifinal round over the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.
No. 6 seed Turlock and No. 4 seed Pitman both overcame the odds and earned a berth to play against one another in the biggest volleyball game in the Section.
Pitman came out and played like a machine, forcing Turlock to play their best game and for a while they both looked in top form.
Pitman came out strong in the first and never trailed, as they won the first set by just two points.
Turlock came out firing away in the second set and went up early and by as much as six points, but Pitman surged in the end with the help of powerful outside hitters Whitney Barnes and Yisel Perez.
With the help of star setter Kiyanna Torres, who amassed a game-high 37 assists, the Pride went on to topple the Bulldogs once again by just two points at 25-23. Only one set was left for Pitman to win it all and they capitalized on the opportunity to end it in straight sets, winning it 25-20.
Pitman's Perez had 15 kills. Marlowe Embry tallied 15 digs. Kaylin Randhawa a pair of blocks and Embry added a pair of aces as well. Fallon Evans and Torres finished with 11 digs apiece.
“I feel we were underestimated this year, but to me it's okay because we can show our ability on the court and obviously we upset Oak Ridge so again, I think these girls work so hard together,” said Pontes-Christian. “We have great team chemistry, we have all the key weapons we need. We are on a roll and playing our best volleyball now, we haven't peaked yet.”
After the win, the Pride (28-7) joins exclusive company in the Section record books. Pitman becomes just the fourth Division I program to win three straight titles, joining Davis (1983-85), St. Mary's (1991-96) and Nevada Union (2002-08).
Turlock's Jadyn Tubbs finished Saturday's Section title matchup with seven kills as did Bella Bush. Sophie Bigler added six kills while Jazmyn Tubbs tallied five. As a team, Turlock tallied 13 blocks and committed five errors for the game. Julia Handy finished with all 26 assists for the 'Dogs.
“We were prepared, you know... nine point difference in the match was all it was, especially going into game three with only four points, so the girls did exactly what was asked of them to do,” said Lugo. “We played point for point and it’s all you can do...”
Next for both teams will be an appearance in the Nor Cal State tournament.
Turlock will play host to Palo Alto in the opening round of the Division I CIF State tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Pitman will travel to San Francisco to take on St. Ignatius in the Open Division CIF State tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday.