The first round of the Central California Conference volleyball season is over and Pitman High is once again atop the standings with an undefeated record. The Pride (5-0 CCC) completed the first third of league play with a straight set victory (25-14, 25-21, 25-17) over rival Turlock High Tuesday night—though the Bulldogs didn’t quite take the loss lying down.
“I knew they would play well. They were doing things that we needed to adjust to; we weren’t doing it quickly enough but eventually we got there,” Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes said. “Turlock kept fighting, so we’ll give it to them. They battled.”
After notching a comfortable first set win, Pitman was tested by Turlock with consistent pressure in the second. Victoria Larson and Courtney Crivelli helped the Bulldogs (2-3 CCC) orchestrate arguably their most competitive set to date as they forced eight ties and battled back consistently. But with the score tied 21-21, Pitman found a way to eke out the win, thanks in part to big blocks at the net from three-year varsity starter Melinda Gonzalez.
“I’m so proud of them, they played so well,” Turlock head coach Amber Castillon said. “I have some key players that—when they’re in the right mindset—they lift the whole team up. They’re very supportive of each other.”
Gonzalez’ presence at the net continued into the third set where she frustrated the Bulldogs and earned crucial points for her team. She finished the night with 6 blocks.
“She is just dominating the net right now. And she’s really confident; that’s what the difference is this year in comparison to the other years,” Pontes said of Gonzalez. “We’re depending on her for the blocks and she’s coming through.”
Offensively, 6-foot-3 junior Lindsey Vander Weide was a hitting machine. Vander Weide ran a number plays that kept Turlock off balance and managed to score points with both power and finesse. She finished the night with 14 kills and was instrumental in helping the Pride pull away from Turlock in the third set.
“Lindsey’s our go to for hitting. She keeps the ball in play and she obviously has a lot of power,” Pontes said. “She keeps defenses on their toes.”
Pitman’s next match will be on the road Thursday night against Merced High.
“I’m happy but I know we still have things to work on. Second round, everyone’s going to be gunning for Pitman so we’re going to have to kick it up a notch,” Pontes said. “We’re going to try and keep down our unforced errors, stay consistent, play together as a team from beginning to end, and just keep running plays.”
Turlock also plays on Thursday in a home match against Buhach Colony High.
“It was a big boost to the girls’ confidence. The amount of respect we get from other teams has really changed this year,” Castillon said. “We want to build on what we started. We’re going to keep practicing and playing hard.”