Sometimes athletic contests are won before they begin; such seemed to be the case when Turlock and Pitman High met on the volleyball court on Tuesday. Three days removed from a championship finish at the Oakdale Tournament, the Pride (4-0 CCC) wore a look of cool confidence on their faces. Across the court, the Bulldogs (0-4 CCC) seemed anxious, weighted with the pressure to overcome the best team in the Central California Conference and save their season.
“I had never seen the girls so pumped up with energy than in Saturday’s championship match,” Pitman’s head coach Kristen Pontes said. “The goal was to bring that energy into this match.”
Pitman’s goal was accomplished as its ladies defeated their counterparts in straight sets (25-13, 25-13, and 25-21). The Pride rallied around their usual suspects — Sierrah Miller, Lindsey Vander Weide, and Maddy Halteman —to bring down the Bulldogs. The trio, who received All Tourney awards over the weekend, dominated at the point of attack with Miller recording 11 kills and 10 digs, Vander Weide recording 11 kills, and Halteman finishing the night with 30 assists and four aces. Cami Larsen and Melinda Gonzalez also had a good night with 10 digs and 4 aces, respectively.
With an advantage in strength, size, and speed the Pride dispatched Turlock with ease in the nearly identical opening sets as the Bulldogs were unable to block at the net and played hesitantly in the back court.
“We want to keep teams on their toes,” Pontes said.
After struggling to cope with the Pride’s offensive onslaught, Turlock rose to the occasion in the third set, testing themselves and their opponents. The Bulldogs managed to tie at the 13th point and went on to hold two significant leads late in the set. As has been the case all season though, Pitman fought back, breaking the tie at 19 before taking the next six of seven points for the match victory.
“Turlock picked it up a little bit in that last set,” Pontes said.
“They can play with anybody but we can’t hold it together long enough,” Turlock’s head coach Amber Castillon said. “Right now they don’t believe enough; they need to work on their confidence.”
Pitman’s win marks the end of the first of three rounds in the CCC. The second round begins Thursday with Turlock facing Buhach Colony High and Pitman facing Merced High.
“We’ve seen everybody and we know how to prepare so I expect to see much better things,” Castillon said.
“I know every team is going to be gunning for us,” Pontes said. “It’s tough being at the top so we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully our streak continues.”