It was sort of expected, considering the circumstances.
The Turlock High volleyball team was giving crosstown nemesis Pitman High a reason to be a little edgy, even with a four-match winless streak heading into Wednesday night’s Central California Conference action. There was also a large crowd of at least a couple hundred to witness the event at the Pitman High gym, all of them cranking up the volume every time a successful attack happened.
“We were nervous,” outside hitter/defensive specialist Ashley Solis said, “but we knew we’d pull through and win the next game.”
In fact, the junior was a heavy contributor on this night, collecting 15 kills and 16 digs to help the Pride to beat the Bulldogs in four sets, 25-13, 16-25, 25-17, 25-16. Pitman minimized its errors after losing the second set and controlled the frontcourt with towering forces, an effort that gave the Pride a 3-2 league record (15-5 overall) heading into Monday’s big showdown at undefeated Golden Valley High in Merced at 6 p.m.
In the CCC season opener on Sept. 15, the Cougars escaped in five sets.
The Pride was relieved to come away with the 3-1 win over Turlock, saying that the feat provided a much-needed confidence boost. Pitman began league play with back-to-back losses before capping off a three-game winning surge by topping Turlock, which is now 0-5 in the CCC.
It also provided bragging rights, since a Pitman-Turlock matchup always grants equally significant cheering sections and a rejuvenated sense of pride. Undoubtedly, the Bulldogs showcased the latter on Wednesday night, winning the second game and issuing an 8-4 lead in the fourth set before letting the game slip.
But the Pride — who also had standout performances from Annabel Perez (29 assists) and Maci Murdock (nine blocks) — never panicked, though Murdock admitted that her teammates did have their heads down on several occasions, a natural reaction when things aren’t going your way.
Nonetheless, the Pride has captured five of the last six rivalry matches, though Turlock holds an 11-5 series advantage.
In this one, the Bulldogs showcased their potential with Madison Griggs (eight kills), Kelli Knapp (10 digs, six kills, two blocks), Alyssa Dawns (eight digs) and Sarah Day (eight kills) leading the way.
“This was the most aggressive I’ve seen them play in a while,” second-year Turlock coach Ellie Cornfoot said. “They played really tough.”
But the Pride just had too many threats. In the last two sets, they survived numerous Turlock rallies and an upset-minded team.
“When Turlock plays us, they always play hard — no matter what,” Pitman coach Kristen Pontes said. “No matter what our record is, they always play, they always fight.”
Those are just some of the circumstances the Pride has to deal with every time they face their crosstown rivals.
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