Pitman High is headed to the CIF Division I Sac-Joaquin Section championship match for the first time ever after Tuesday's 3-1 (19-25, 25-14, 25-13 and 25-20) victory over St. Francis High of Sacramento.
The Pride — ranked 22nd in California with only one loss to their name in 2014 — recovered from a shaky start in the first game of Tuesday's match and dominated the Troubadours with stellar efforts from Maddy Halteman, Lindsey Vander Weide, Ashleigh Phelps and Lauren Solis.
“We had a rough start, we made a lot of errors in the first game, but we picked it up the second game and we played some of the best volleyball that we have [this year]. And we had to against St. Francis,” Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian said. “After we calmed down and controlled the game, it was kind of smooth sailing from there. They did some things great in the first game and then we adjusted, and we shut them down the second game through the fourth.”
After allowing St. Francis to control the net and tempo of play in the first game, Pitman showed its opponents that the hype surrounding the team was real as opened the second game with a 7-1 run and the third game with a 15-3 run to reestablish itself on the court.
Vander Weide provided the power at the net with 18 kills through the match while Halteman moved coast-to-coast on the court to finish with 29 assists.
The Troubadours turned up the heat on the Pride in the third game, playing to seven ties, but after knotting the score at 20-20 Pitman went on a five-point run to solidify its position as a Division I championship contender.
Phillips and Solis both finished the match with 10 digs. Madison King recorded 10 kills while freshman Whitney Barnes and sophomore Erika Rodriguez chipped in on defense with three and two blocks, respectively.
“That was our goal this year, to make it to section championships, so I'm so excited for that. It's what these seniors have worked four years for, and all the girls have worked hard,” Pontes-Christian said. “We are all about showing teams what we can do versus saying it. So we're not going in cocky, we're going in confident.”
“St. Mary's, St. Francis; two private schools. It's almost unheard of for a public school to beat them, both of them,” She added about her team's post-season success.
Pitman now has a date with Pleasant Grove High at UC Davis on Friday for the right to be named Division I SJS champions.
“We practiced so hard and we worked so hard for this, I think we definitely deserve it,” Halteman said “I think that we are very capable of winning.”
“We're ready for it,” Pontes-Christian said. “I think that we're going in knowing we're the number one seed and we should be the winners.”
Pitman and Pleasant Grove will meet on the court at 8 p.m. on Friday.