The start of league didn’t define this year’s Pitman Pride varsity volleyball team and their outstanding run to capture the program’s seventh league title since 2011, and the first ever Central California Athletic League after topping Turlock High on Monday, 3-1.
The win gave the Pride a 9-1 CCAL posting, one game above Modesto High (8-2), and their ninth straight league victory since losing to Modesto in their league opener Sept. 12 when they fell 3-2.
“That first league loss to Modesto was a rough way to start, but we knew it would be tough after an 0-1 start, but I think it was more motivation for us,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian. “I think it was just a matter of time”
Heading into Monday’s game, Turlock High was looking to play spoiler and force a tiebreaker game between Modesto and Pitman, and perhaps notch a second-place finish, but none of it came to fruition.
Instead, the outcome was almost the same as the first meeting back on Sept. 26.
Turlock won the first set, then Pitman rolled into three match wins for the game.
“We knew we had to beat Turlock to get the outright title, so we had a big weekend, played some big schools and big teams and I think that led to today and having that confidence,” said Pontes-Christian. “Same as when we played over there, Turlock took that first set, and so we had it, we just made some mistakes in that first set that we shouldn’t have and I think it made us more motivated to play better in the second set.”
Some of those teams that the Pride beat over the weekend included national powerhouse and state contender Archbishop Mitty and section contender Granite Bay at the Stockton Classic, a tournament that has a history of bringing in the best teams in the northern region.
The Pride carried that momentum into Monday and then some.
In the first set, things were pretty even at first with a 19-19 tie, then a 23-23 tie before momentum swung into Turlock’s favor for the final stretch.
A wild four-point rally to end the first with the help of Jazmyn Tubbs notched the Bulldogs their only set victory of the night at 26-24.
“First set girls were focused and executing our game plan,” said Turlock head coach Amber Lugo. “Other sets there was opportunity but we did not take care of us and what we do best. We will continue to improve upon our strengths and reduce our errors.”
Once the first set ended, Pitman looked like a team on a mission.
The Pride powered through to a 25-13 win in the second.
Turlock went up 3-0 in the third before Pitman outscored them 25-13 to win the third 25-16 and take a 2-1 lead.
Turlock didn’t go down without a fight in the fourth set, but by then, it was evident that Pitman was finally meshing and it didn’t bode well for the Bulldogs.
“We cut down our errors and controlled the game and made them make mistakes,” said Pontes-Christian.
Pitman never trailed in the fourth, but Turlock kept within one point throughout until the end when it ended 25-19, and the entire student section ran onto the court, swarming the team.
Pitman closes the regular season with a 22-11 record, including 9-1 in league play.
Turlock finishes at 14-17 overall and 6-4 in the CCAL, earning a playoff berth in the process.
Pitman’s Avery Carlson had eight blocks and teammate Haley Freeman finished with 41 assists and two aces. Maddy Hall tallied 25 digs. Emily Vander Weide finished with 15 kills and 14 digs. Verdone had 14 kills, 19 digs and a pair of aces.
Turlock’s kills leaders consisted of Jazmyn Tubbs (19), Mary Padilla (11) and Ava Chiesa (7). Audrey Tillery and Tubbs had five blocks apiece.
Tubbs also finished with a team-high 21 digs and Chiesa added 18. Padilla added 17 assists and Sarah Romo had a team-high 22 assists.
Turlock won last year’s D-I SJS title while Pitman won the previous three. Altogether both have won the last four section titles (D1).
Both advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, with Pitman slated to be in the Division I bracket at the moment.
“We are looking forward to hopefully at least hosting a playoff game, first match, if not potentially more,” Pontes-Christian added. “But hopefully at least the first match, but we are going to look at it as one match at a time as I have always done in the past. The thing is they know it is single elimination and the seeding doesn’t matter as we have proved in the past we can beat out the one seed, the two seed, long as we come together and have a good night so that is how we are looking at it. We are going to go as far as we can and focus on one set at a time, one point at a time.”
“Our plan is to play each point and not let ourselves look too far forward,” Lugo added.