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Pride, Bulldog volley fall in opening round of playoffs
Pitman volleyball
Taylor Vannest goes in for a hit during Pitman's 3-2 loss to Davis High in the opening round of playoffs Tuesday night (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The Turlock and Pitman varsity volleyball teams both came up short in the opening round of Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs Tuesday night, with the Bulldogs losing to St. Mary’s in a straight sets sweep and the Pride falling to Davis 3-2. 

The Pride was hoping to repeat its first-round playoff victory over Davis in 2018 and jumped out to a dominant 2-0 lead over the Blue Devils, winning the first two sets 25-23 and 25-20. It was clear from the jump, however, that Davis wasn’t going to go down without a fight. 

“There was a lot more fire and a lot more desire during those first two sets,” Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian said. “Then we just kind of fell apart in the third set and made too many mistakes, and from there we couldn’t control the matchup.”

The next two sets were hard fought by both teams, but too many errors in key moments by the Pride allowed the Blue Devils to even the score 2-2 with a 25-15 win in the third and a 25-18 win in the fourth. In the fifth and final set, Davis made quick work of Pitman with a 15-6 victory for the 3-2 match win. 

“No matter what happens in the preseason and the real season, the postseason is anyone’s game. The schools up north are talented this year and we knew that Davis, especially, was going to be tough,” Pontes-Christian said. “I give them kudos for playing so well. I always tell the girls it doesn’t matter how you start; it’s how you finish.”

Mimi Verdone and Megan Hall led the offensive attack for the Pride with 15 and 10 kills, respectively. Taylor Vannest and Reese Carmona each had two aces apiece on the night; Carmona also had 20 digs and Vannest had three successful blocks. Julia Magnu recorded 15 digs and 45 assists on the night as well.

“I'm proud of them. Getting a home game in the house is always fun, I just wish we could have finished differently,” Pontes-Christian said. “Having a good season and winning CCAL were part of their goals.”

The Bulldogs traveled to Stockton to take on St. Mary’s Tuesday night, who they also lost to earlier this season in pre-league play. It was the seventh straight postseason Turlock has attended, head coach Amber Lugo said, and that alone made her proud despite the 3-0 loss in the opening round. 

“They played with heart and fought the whole way,” Lugo said. “They never gave up.”

Lugo said the team was nervous during the first set, and bounced back with an early lead in the second set. Issues with a low ceiling in the St. Mary’s gym caused the girls to be timid offensively as the match went on, Lugo added, and ultimately St. Mary’s won the three sets 25-8, 25-19 and 25-18.

“The first set was terrible, but then we warmed up and played really well in sets two and three,” Lugo said. “We had leads, we hung out with them, but we just couldn’t finish.”

Katie Parker had six kills on the night for the Bulldogs and Ella Spalding had four of her own. As a team, Turlock collected 19 total kills against St. Mary’s. Ella Bernard had 10 assists, while Alexia Longacre dug out 10 balls during the match. 

“I’m very, very proud of them,” Lugo said. “I’m always throwing quotes at them, and there was this great quote that’s pushed us this last little bit. It says, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ That means something is expected of you, and they lived up to that.”