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Pitman set to host NorCal finals for first time in school history
Pitman volley-barnes
Pride freshman Whitney Barnes makes a play against a pair of Wolves defenders in the first game of Saturdays straight-set win. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Pitman High’s historic season on the volleyball court was extended Saturday night with the Pride’s straight-set victory of San Ramon Valley High in their CIF Division I NorCal semifinal match.

The Wolves of Danville, 2014 CIF Division I North Coast Section runner ups, earned a shot at top-seeded Pitman with their straight-set defeat of Pleasant Grove High, the 2014 CIF Division I Sac-Joaquin Section runner ups, who gave the Pride a run for their money at UC Davis.

“We knew it was going to be a really good match. Because if they beat a team that we struggled with in three, it was going to be a fight,” Senior Lindsey Vander Weide said. “We came in ready to fight, ready to play, ready for anything that they had. They had quite a few good hitters, but we were just ready for it.”

The first and second games on Saturday were closely contested with the Wolves and Pride exchanging kill-shots and playing within two points of each other most of the time. Pitman nabbed the first game, 25-18, with consistent power plays from Vander Weide and late-game dominance at the net by Whitney Barnes.

San Ramon Valley answered back with five unanswered points to open the second game before extending its lead to 10-15, prompting Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian to call a time out and regroup. After the time out, the Pride went on a 7-1 run to take the lead. The Wolves were on the verge of knotting the score at 20 points apiece when tragedy struck in the form of injury, however, when junior hitter Milla Anderson’s left knee buckled and sent her to the floor. She didn’t return and Pitman took the second game, 25-23.

“We were expecting a fight from beginning to end. It was very unfortunate that their outside hitter went down. You never want to see that happen,” Pontes-Christian said. “I think they were a little bit frazzled after that, unfortunately. It’s tough to lose a key player, especially in the middle of a match. But they still battled.”

San Ramon Valley was visibly shaken in the third game with the loss of one of its key players as Pitman opened with a five-point run before taking an 18-6 lead. With the victory all but in the bag, Pontes-Christian began to rotate her bench, allowing the Wolves to score some morale points before their 25-15 loss and elimination from the State Tournament.

Vander Wide finished with 14 kills. Barnes finished with 4 blocks and one ace and Maddy Halteman finished with 25 assists, two blocks and one ace.

“Our number one goal was to win a championship for the section. I never anticipated having the number one seed in NorCals,” Pontes-Christian said. “Making it to the championship is amazing. I think these are bonuses to our season because we’ve already had a great season, made history, so it’s amazing.”

Pitman is now set to host its first NorCal finals match in school history.

“I didn’t even know what comes after winning sections. I didn’t even know there was a state (tournament),” Vander Weide said. “It’s such a humongous honor for Pitman to come this far and be hosting every single game, the playoffs and the finals.”

The Pride will host Menlo-Atherton High on Tuesday with the winner moving on to face the SoCal champions on Saturday in the CIF Division I State Finals.

Menlo-Atherton are the reigning CIF Division I Central Coast Section champions and are ranked 13th in the state with an overall record of 30-3. Pitman is currently ranked 16th in the state with an overall record of 43-1.

“We’ve gotten all the way here, it’s just kind of like why stop now?” Vander Weide said. “Let’s just win state, let’s just do it. Our team has enough drive and enough talent to do it. I know we can.”