The best volleyball program in the Sac-Joaquin Section over the last three years—Pitman—took on arguably the most consistent over the past half-decade at the Division-IV level in Hilmar High on Monday night in their annual Foundation game from the Pride’s gym.
Although the teams kept score, the game itself and stats do not count towards the regular season. However, the atmosphere in the gym, along with the play, was at a game-time level.
From the first to the final point, the Pride were able to dominate the court. The Yellowjackets put up a fight in the second and third set that ended tight, however, the Pride came away with the 3-0 sweep.
“Of course, our girls were nervous, who isn't when you play a team like Pitman... they are one of the best in the state,” said Hilmar coach Haylee Pearce. “It's just practice, so we told them that, and it will make them better and we could've done it tonight, but it was a learning curve.”
“I felt like the first set we cruised through, then second set Hilmar picked it up,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian. “They made some adjustments and I felt like we are working on starting better because the second and third set we didn't start well, so that is definitely a goal of ours since we found out early against Clovis.”
Pitman opened up the regular season with a Friday match against Clovis East, however, they came out on the losing end, dropping the fifth set and going down 0-1 in the season after a 3-2 defeat.
The Pride were quick to move on as they hosted the Yellowjackets, a power in their respective division, after reaching the past four straight D-IV SJS Championship games.
“I love playing Hilmar, we work with them in summer open gym and I coached some of the girls, but I love playing them and I am proud of the ones I coach,” said Pontes-Christian. “They have a really cohesive group and they play well together. I only see them progressing and great season for them.”
Pitman seemed calm and confident as they came out on fire in the first set, proving why they are the best of the best and toppled Hilmar 25-11 to take the 1-0 lead.
Hilmar re-established itself and went on a run in the second and most exciting set that saw multiple rallies that were well over a couple minutes long.
The Yellowjackets went up 20-14 before the Pride rallied, earning a 26-24 win.
The third set saw nearly the same outcome as the second, with Hilmar going up 20-14 before the experience kicked in and Pitman cruised with an 11-3 rally to win it 25-23.
“I thought it was great being down five or more and we were able to come back, so that shows tenacity from this team and that they don't give up and we’ve been working on that in practice,” said Pontes-Christian. “I am really pleased to see that. That is the plan... to keep getting better.”
Kaylin Randhawa of Pitman finished the game with two aces and two blocks. Fallon Evans had 13 digs, while Emma Hirschkorn added 23 assists. Emily Vanderweide had 10 kills and two aces.
“Cierra Verdone, one of my juniors who I literally just put in, was all over the place, and she was playing phenomenal,” Pontes-Christian added. “Kind of like the libero all over the court, and she brought energy, that was definitely great to see since we just tried that today.”
Mariah Ahid of Hilmar added 7 kills and a pair of blocks along with an ace. Hannah Pearce finished with 18 assists and 22 digs.
“Our girls did great, although they felt defeated and back down at some point, they are learning and even though they fell, they had their heads lifted high,” Pearce added. “They felt great with some aspects, so that was great to hear as a coach.”
Hilmar will take on Los Banos on the road for their regular season opener at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Pitman will host Enochs at 6 p.m. Thursday.