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Pride rolls over West in home court contest
Turlock, TC notch round one victories
Pitman volley 2
The Pride celebrate a point during their first-round victory over West of Tracy (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Pitman High cruised to a 25-7, 25-12, 25-14 victory over West (Tracy) in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs on Tuesday at the PHS gymnasium.

The Pride (29-2) will next host Folsom in a second-round game on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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The Pride’s Payton Rowell and Madison Eissayou go up for a block during Tuesday’s playoff game against West (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

“We had a bad week of practice, I think because of the long layoff between the end of league and this game,” said Pitman coach Kristin Pontes-Christian, whose team is the No. 3 seed in the D-I bracket. “There was lack of energy and intensity in practices. Hopefully, this win will give us the momentum we need.”

The Pride were without the services of Maryn Hall, who was out sick for the first-rounder. Avery Ahlem and Mia Ngo received increased playing time in Hall’s absence.

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Pitman’s Aila Reich spikes the ball during Tuesday’s game (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

“I had a lot of fun tonight,” said Ahlem, a junior outside hitter. “I had so much fun with my teammates and the Pit Crew (pep band). The entire energy was amazing.”

Six-foot-2 senior Lauren Hamilton and 6-0 junior Madison Eissayou were a force for Pitman at the net, finding holes wherever West left them.

“We have a lot of strengths on this team,” said Eissayou, a middle blocker. “We have good passers and hitters and our teamwork is really good.”

No. 14 West had just one lead in any of the three games — 1-0 in the second set — and the latest it was tied in any game was 4-4 in the third. But the Wolfpack did manage to score in double digits in two of the three games, a moral of victory of sorts for a program that was on the brink following the death of their coach, Christine Toon, from COVID in 2020.

“This program was on life support after the death of Coach Toon. For us to make the playoffs is an accomplishment in and of itself,” said Wolfpack coach Derek Sundquist. “We practiced our blocking all week because we knew they were tall and hit hard and were strong. But hats off to Pitman. Hey, we were playing with house money.”

Pitman volleyball fans
Pitman volleyball fans were out enforce during Tuesday’s opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs when the Pride faced West of Tracy at their home court (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

No. 9 Turlock 3, No. 8 Davis-Yolo 0 at Davis — The Bulldogs blanked the Blue Devils 25-22, 25-18, 25-17 and will travel to take on top-seeded St. Mary’s on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Stockton.

The Rams are a nine-time Sac-Joaquin Section champion, but haven’t won a title since 2010 and haven’t made a finals appearance since 2011.

Turlock won the D-I title in 2017.

Division VI

Turlock Christian 3, Don Pedro 0, at La Grange — The ninth-seeded Eagles made quick work of the Panthers and earned a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs. 

And TC’s reward? The Eagles will play No. 1 Forest Lake Christian in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 7 p.m.

However, four Turlock Christian starters will not play in Thursday’s game because they’ll be in Indiana for the FFA National Convention. Forest Lake Christian would not agree to move Thursday’s game to Monday, which would’ve allowed the four FFA students to play.

“We’re very excited about the win,” said coach Monique Riley, who will have only seven players available to her for the second-round game. “But we have our work cut out for us Thursday. We brought up two freshmen for (Tuesday’s) and Thursday’s game, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to play Thursday.

“I’m very proud that the girls have made it this far. We’re going to go out there and give our best shot. Who knows? It could be a bad day for Forest Lake and end up being their biggest upset of the year.”