Things didn’t get off to the smoothest start for the Pitman High girls volleyball team on Thursday night in their CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal match over Folsom High. But if there was any worry in the air in the Pitman gymnasium, it would be quickly taken care of.
The three-seeded Pride entered Thursday full of confidence after Tuesday’s playoff-opening, three-set victory over West High of Tracy. Now going up against six-seeded Folsom, who also defeated their first-round opponent in straight sets, the Pride knew that they could run into some challenges.
In the first set, the challenge became clear as Folsom’s Addie Kannegeisser made her 6’1” presence known. The star Bulldog senior tallied up five blocks and was responsible for six scores in the first set alone. The visiting Bulldogs wound up winning the opening set by a score of 25-21.
Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian spoke about the slow start for her team and how they were able to put in in their rear view.
“We made some errors we don’t normally make,” she said. “Maybe there were some jitters, but Folsom came out and played well with little mistakes. They’re blocking was spot on, so we had to talk about single block and working around the block, and we picked it up from then on.”
And the Pride indeed picked it up, thanks in part to Lauren Hamilton and Maryn Hall. The duo combined for 14 scores in the crucial second, which Pitman won 25-17.
“Lauren is a huge player, both literally and figuratively,” joked Pontes-Christian, referring to Hamilton’s 6’2” frame. “She just brings a lot of energy and intensity. She had some great blocks and swings too, and she’s just been great for us all season.”
The third set was a similar story, as the Pride won it by an identical 25-17. Once again, it featured domination from Hamilton, Hall and Ella Sniezek, who were responsible for the bulk of the offense. Pontes-Christian was especially impressed with Hall, who is a freshman that has battled back from an illness.
“She was sick for a couple days and wasn’t with us for that first round,” Pontes-Christian explained. “She played great today… She really picked it up for us.”
The fourth set would be the final set of the match as the Pride took it home by a score of 25-13. In this frame, defense was the story as multiple Folsom offensive attempts were spoiled by Hamilton and Madison Eissayou.
At the end of the night, Hall had tallied a team-leading 17 kills, Hamilton tallied 15, and Sniezek pitched in 14. Defensively, Hamilton led the way with 7 blocks. Payton Rowell also racked up 16 digs while Hall had 12 of her own.
The big win books the Pride a date with familiar foe Oak Ridge Trojans on Tuesday. The two-seeded Trojans are the defending Division I champions of Sac-Joaquin Section. During Pitman's three-year championship run from 2014 to 2016, the Pride knocked out Oak Ridge in the semifinal rounds in 2015 and 2016.
“We’ll watch some video on Oak Ridge,” Pontes-Christian said. “We know they’re super strong and powerful and we’ll just have to play our game and play good defense.”
As Pitman looks forward to next week, the same cannot be said for the other Turlock teams. Ninth-seeded Turlock High, the Central California Athletic League runner-up to Pitman this season, saw its season come to an end Thursday night when they fell to top-seeded St. Mary’s (Stockton) 25-16, 25-12, 25-19. Turlock Christian High also was eliminated, losing to No. 1 Forest Lake Christian 25-6, 25-9, 25-8 in the Division VII bracket.