Pitman varsity volleyball head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian, who led the Pride to a 44-2 overall record and the State Championship just a year ago, had been sidelined for the past several weeks—but the Section champion coach is back.
Pontes-Christian recently gave birth to a daughter earlier and returned to the sidelines last week in the game against Golden Valley where the Pride dominated the Cougars in a 3-0 sweep.
This was followed by Monday's senior night and final home contest for the 2015 Pitman squad where the Pride, who implemented a more up-tempo offense recently, put their new tools to use behind coach Pontes-Christian as they beat out Merced, 3-0 [25-6, 25-9 and 25-5].
“Feels great to be back,” said Pontes-Christian. “Our focus was not to worry what happened on the other side of the net, our focus was on our side and staying consistent. We were working on a quicker offense, quicker tempo, running more plays.”
“Honestly, it feels great since we worked together as a team and kept the enthusiasm up, it was exciting,” said Pitman senior Kaylene Ureno. “We are taking it one game at a time because the second time around in league we worked more on what we need to work on to beat each team.”
Pitman won their eighth Central California Conference contest this season, with an undefeated 8-0 record and an overall posting of 23-5.
“It’s motivation, that is the great thing about 'the streak' and every practice and every game is another win in the books and I think that is what keeps us motivated,” said Pontes-Christian. “I know that sometimes league will be difficult so that is our focus and to keep the unforced errors down because we are thinking down the road, playoffs.”
After Monday's game the Pride are sitting at first in league, however, their crosstown rivals Turlock are second with a 7-1 record.
Of the eight league wins, Pitman's only win that did not come in straight sets was when they met Turlock back on Oct. 14.
“Right now we are focused on Buhach and then we can look beyond Turlock and Sonora,” said Pontes-Christian. “For now we are focused on bringing it on our side and I think the girls are motivated and ready for that.”
Pitman played a tad different on Monday, moving their hitter around the court, getting more free ball plays even without one of their stars in Whitney Barnes, who was out after sustaining a head injury over a week ago.
“Whitney has been out for two weeks; she should be back Wednesday. She collided with somebody else at practice and had to go through protocol, but she will be okay,” said Pontes-Christian.
The Pride only committed five unforced errors against Merced, including two servicing errors.
“I think we played well as a team together and we were moving around and being loud verbally as well because we knew what we were all doing,” said Pitman's Kiyanna Torres. “Since Pontes returned we have been changing things around and making it faster.”
Merced also found it difficult dealing with Ureno's serving.
“We ran quicker plays to speed up the block and we did really good with our setter as well,” said Ureno who finished with six aces and two blocks. “Everything needs to go right on our side, that is what we are focused on, our team, it all comes together at the end of the day.”
Torres finished with 29 assists and Lauren Solis added a team-high 15 digs while Yisel Perez topped all of the Pride with nine kills.
Pitman's next game will be on the road at Buhach Colony at 6 p.m. today.