With only nine players on its bench, Hilmar High’s volleyball team mirrors the look and feel of its school—small. But what the Yellowjackets lack in depth, they make up for with consistency and power.
Hilmar displayed some of that small school heart Thursday night when it hosted Turlock High and defeated the Bulldogs in straight sets (25-8, 25-10, 25-7).
“This team is very small, but they’re pretty powerful. They’re a talented group of girls,” Hilmar head coach Patti Harris said. “They played their game; the level of play didn’t drop.”
Fresh off a 3-2 performance against Division I teams at the High Sierra Tournament, Hilmar hit Turlock with a full force offensive attack and maintained the pressure throughout the game. Sophomore standout Emily Baptista was a key factor in the ‘Jackets on-court production with 11 kills and was aided early and often by Haylee Pearce who finished with 24 assists on the night.
“She is outstanding and really fun to watch. She might be the player to watch this year,” Harris said of Baptista.
On the other side of the net, the Bulldogs struggled to find chemistry and were quickly left flustered and frustrated with their play. After mounting a comeback win against Kimball High the night before, Turlock entered Strom Gym expecting to give Hilmar a challenge. Instead, Turlock’s girls committed numerous mistakes and finished the night with 19 dropped balls.
“That was every coach’s worst nightmare. Everybody was off,” Turlock head coach Amber Castillon said. “It was a totally different team from the night before.”
When Turlock did manage to get a rally going, four year varsity starter Valerie Ewing and 6-foot-2 Brittney Fielder blanketed the court and net, respectively, and denied the Bulldogs' attempts at scoring. Ewing finished with 19 digs.
“She’s a very intense player. She has a very competitive mindset,” Harris said. “She does a good job leading by example.”
Hilmar looks to continue its streak of success and stiff pre-season competition in this weekend’s Golden Valley Tournament before taking on Merced and Atwater High next week.
“This team gels very well, and in volleyball that’s half the battle,” Harris said.
Turlock is also competing in the Golden Valley Tournament and will take on Downey and Beyer High next week.