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'Jackets volley captures first Section title
Hilmar Volley 1
Hilmar Highs varsity volleyball captured the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV title after handling Bret Harte 3-0 on Saturday in the final. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Fifth time was the charm for the Hilmar High varsity volleyball team, which finally captured the program's first Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV title, after four consecutive losses, in Saturday's finale against Bret Harte that ended in straight sets, 3-0.

“It was great…just very fortunate to have these girls and it feels good,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris, who had been part of the last four finals losses. “I actually have an entire team that is all about the team and working together and they really did a great job.”

“It's amazing because we have been working for this for four years and feels good to finally win and take home the banner to our hometown,” said Hilmar senior Mariah Ahid. “I'm proud that I get to leave Hilmar with a legacy set since we are the first volleyball team to bring home the banner and that feels great.”

The team did it in spectacular fashion, dominating every single playoff opponent.

In fact, the Yellowjackets did not lose a single set in all four games played and have now won six consecutive games in straight sets.

“It's about time. It is very emotional, but at the same time we deserve it. I’ve been here since my freshman year and it's really great, I want to cry but it is hard not to,” said Hilmar senior Hannah Pearce.

Pearce, along with Ahid, had been part of the losing squad the three previous years and knew the time to win was now.

“I think we had a lot more confidence this year because we are a balanced team and preparation wise we were prepared all year, watching film, taking notes,” said Ahid. “We had motivational speakers come talk to us the last couple days. It's been awesome, we knew we needed it this time.”

In Saturday’s final, Bret Harte was seeded No. 2. and Hilmar was the No. 1 seed and played like it, handling the match throughout. Hilmar committed just three hitting errors in the three sets played.

The 'Jackets combined a string of powerful plays that were centered around Pearce, who was able to assist her team in spectacular fashion, finishing with a game-high 43.

Hilmar took an early lead in the opening set, but BH started to push back, eventually cutting the lead to 12-10.

This was as close as the first got, with Hilmar pulling away to win the first 25-19.

Hilmar accrued powerful kills in the second and third sets, winning in easy fashion with a 25-13 second set victory followed by a 25-11 third set final.

With the help of Ahid and freshman Mikela Labno on the outside, along with tall middles Erin Benning and Liv Peterson, the quality kills became too strong to stop and the 'Jackets captured their first ever blue banner, leaving the last four years of heartbreak in the past.

The Yellowjackets improve to an overall record of 29-13 heading into the CIF State Tournament.

Ahid finished the game with 12 kills, while Labno added 16.

As a team, Hilmar finished with 50 digs from seven different players, including five who had seven or more for the game.

“It feels amazing,” said Hilmar senior Erin Benning. “It is extra special because this is my favorite team I have ever been on because we all get along so well, it's like we are family. We don't have just one star on the team, we all play together and play for each other, so it is extra special to win it this year.”

Hilmar will next host No. 9 Alhambra in the Division-III CIF State Volleyball bracket at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“We want to keep continuing, we just have to go game by game and just focus on playing as a team. Preparation is key,” Pearce added.