The Pitman Pride are back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Volleyball Champions.
After having a chaotic offseason as defending Section and Nor-Cal champs, the Pride were by no means the favorite to repeat after losing eight seniors —two of which went on to D-I programs — but head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian and the team was motivated to progress.
Against all odds, the new looking lady Pride went into the postseason as the No. 4 seed after splitting the league title with Turlock, and forgot about the season behind them, becoming a powerful team and upset the No. 7 team in state, Oak Ridge followed by a dominating Championship match.
Without question, the Pride played a superb game against Pleasant Grove on Saturday, except for the first set when they fell, but ultimately the team came together and powered through three straight to clinch their second title in a row, 3-1, (19-25, 25-21, 25-16 and 25-23).
“Just an amazing feeling,” said Pontes-Christian. “I don't think anybody expected us to get to the finals let alone win a championship but that is okay, its okay to be underdogs in playoffs because we might be overlooked and it gave us more fire on the court to prove to everyone that we are a program and we focus on every player coming up.”
“I am just speechless honestly... we all played all out in the best game we have played all season and I am so proud of my team,” said Pitman senior Lauren Solis who won her second Section title. “We struggled with teamwork and communication throughout the season but we were confident.”
There is no doubt the team was confident after playing exceptional against one of the best teams in the Nation in Oak Ridge.
Pitman followed it with a remarkable performance on Saturday at Tokay High.
Kiyanna Torres, Lauren Solis, Yisel Perez, Whitney Barnes, Erika Rodriguez, and Kaylin Randhawa were among various standouts for the game.
“We just played great, made very few errors and took advantage of their errors,” said Pontes-Christian.
After dropping the first set, the team forgot about the misfortune and just went on a powerful rally from the bottom of the roster to the top, playing outstanding volleyball and making few errors on the court.
Solis added four aces and 14 digs with her tremendous ability to dig and make great serves throughout the game and Torres did a tremendous job setting up all of her teammates.
“It was building the bond and trusting eachother because that is what it comes down to trusting one another and after that we were good,” said Torres who finished with 41 assists.“We were expecting just to fight and we would till the end no matter what, we will always fight and battle.”
There is no doubt they did.
After controlling the next two sets and up 24-23 in the fourth, a timeout was called by Pleasant Grove and right after the timeout Torres found Perez for the game sealing kill to give the team their second straight blue banner.
“Going into that timeout right before was our mentality that the 25th point was going to Yisel no matter what, I was going to push it to her no matter where I was and she did it,” said Torres. “When it hit the floor it was the most amazing and crazy feeling because we worked so hard all season for this.”
Barnes tallied 13 kills and 10 digs, Perez finished with 11 kills, and Randhawa tallied six blocks and the Pride overcame a lower seed to shock the Section.
“Its an amazing feeling,” said Pontes-Christian.“Its a true testament to all the hard work of these girls. It was a little difficult not being present at the beginning and we had to work on things in a couple of days rather than have some months but what we did was focus on our side.”
“We will control the game so we always focused on quick volleyball and attacking the second ball when they are out of system, keeping balls in play and being smart, reading the hitter and playing defense, that is all we could do and that has literally been our focus and I think that is why we have been successful.”
Next for the Pride will be the Nor-Cal tournament as they will host Carlmont at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“We will take it game by game and we know if we all play as a team and do our job then we can go far again.”