Maybe the second time is the charm.
The Hilmar High Yellowjackets are back in the section finale after defeating Ripon High, 3-0, at home on Tuesday in the semifinal of the Division-IV CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament.
After a long offseason, the ‘Jackets and head coach Patti Harris put together a competitive squad and made it this far—again—as they swept through Ripon in straight sets for the second time in three meetings this year, (25-18, 25-14 and 25-21).
“We gained a lot of good, new players and I honestly feel we are better than last year,” said Hilmar senior Whitney Williams. “A lot of people in our community say we look better than last year and I think of our main factors that helps us is that we are really good at picking ourselves back up.”
“It’s exciting. The girls worked hard. It’s a young team with only three returners from last year and so we did a lot of work this year and I am really excited. I know they are excited,” Harris said about making it back to the Section final. “I am just so happy that we get to go back again, it’s exciting.”
Hilmar will now face Sonora High in the Section title game on Friday, a rematch of last year’s unforgettable bout between the two squads.
“We want it bad… but I know Sonora wants it too, so it will be a good game,” Williams said.
The ‘Jackets, who have been led by Emily Baptista and Haylee Pearce's consistent play throughout the year, were nothing short of consistent on Tuesday after playing yet another fantastic game.
Although it seemed like the ‘Jackets played up and down at times, Ripon made crucial unforced errors that helped the home team.
The visiting Indians missed serves, open hits and just did not seem to be on, but the ‘Jackets were able to take advantage, making it look easier than it really was.
“Today was rough. We could’ve done a lot better, even coach [Harris] said we need to play better, even though we were up by so much we can perform way better than that,” said Williams.
The first set was a seven point victory, followed by an 11-point win.
In the third and final set of the match, the ‘Jackets were down by as much as five points with the score at 9-14.
No timeout was called by the home side but instead the ‘Jackets picked it up and went on a 16-6 run as junior Emily Baptista finished off the game with a kill for the final point.
“I saw the pass. I saw the set. Then I knew Emily was going to kill it, I just knew it as soon as I saw the pass and the set I just knew she would put it down and finish the game with the finisher,” said Harris.
Baptista ended the match with 18 kills, seven aces and 17 digs while Pearce added on a team-high in assists (30).
Hilmar won every match in straight sets, however, Sonora, who is the number one seeded team in the bracket, also defeated their three opponents in straight sets.
“They are very solid all the way around as a team and you can’t make any mistakes with them,” Harris said about Sonora. “It’s going to be very difficult to get them off their game because they are very solid. It’s the same team as last year,F but they have gotten better.”
“It is a lot pressure this year because we want it and last year was a heartbreaker after winning the first two then dropping three in a row and a lot of our community wants us to win really badly,” Williams added. “Sonora is really good. We need to keep it out of our heads and keep the emotions aside.”