Just because the 2016 Pitman volleyball team is done for the season after losing to St. Ignatius, 3-1, in the first round of the Open Division CIF State tournament, doesn't mean they are finished entirely.
The program seems to just be getting started by head coach Kristen Pontes-Christians' standards.
“I feel very satisfied with this season, and the girls do too despite our loss,” said Pontes-Christian. “We know that if we were in the D1 NorCals section, things would have played out much differently for us in the State Tournament, but we are not dwelling on it.”
Instead, the team is celebrating all of their accomplishments, according to Pontes-Christian, especially another D1 section title.
“This season was absolutely another successful season,” said Pontes-Christian. “We were not anticipating being put into the prestigious Open Division for the NorCal State tournament, but we took it as a huge compliment to the success of our program.”
Once they pulled off the three-peat in the D-I Section finale, the committee had no choice but to put the best volleyball program in the SJS over the last three seasons into the toughest bracket with the best teams in not just NorCal, but in all of California.
One of those teams was St. Ignatius of San Francisco, which has developed a reputation as a private powerhouse in nearly every sport they compete in.
The Pride went into the Open Division bracket as just one of two public schools, the rest are parochial powers and private institutes.
“It was tough because we wanted to show everyone that we can beat a team of this high caliber, but unfortunately the night didn’t play out how we wanted,” said Pontes-Christian. “Any other given night, I think the result could have been different, but that’s the way sports go, especially when you get put into these highly competitive playoff brackets.”
The Pride fell in the first set after a 25-17 decision. They fought back with their power and won the second set, 29-27, making things even at 1-1.
The next two games didn't look like the Pitman the team and fans alike are accustomed to seeing and they fell in the final sets by a combined 16 points.
“We started out the match a little slow and hesitant, so it was more like a warm-up game for us,” said Pontes-Christian. “Then we came out on fire during the second set and had momentum the entire set, even though St. Ignatius had a good run. Our serve receive fell apart and St. Ignatius took the lead and full control of the third and we never could regain our composure after that.”
The Pride have won 28 games or more since 2012 under Pontes-Christian, including six consecutive Central California Conference titles after winning this year.
Pontes-Christian has also brought the program their first and only three Section titles, which the banners now hang in the Pride gym.
“Amazing year. Players in this program strive for excellence because of what past teams have attained,” Pontes-Christian added. “We were able to achieve that again this season. These eight seniors are a special group of talented volleyball players and they will be missed next season, but I feel confident that we will pick up and be ready to compete again at a high level next year.”