Two days after defeating Los Banos High in a tight, five set, first-round playoff match, Hilmar High’s girls endured another grueling five set match against Sonora High. Unlike their victory against the Tigers, the Yellowjackets fell one set short against the Wildcats (19-25, 26-24, 25-23, 21-25, and 12-15), leading to an early exit from the Division IV SJS Tournament.
“Whenever you lose you want to make that team earn it and Sonora definitely earned it. It was neck and neck all the way through,” Hilmar’s head coach Patti Harris said. “My girls went out and played their heart out as a team.”
The ‘Jackets (25-8-0 overall) dropped the first set to the Wildcats(28-7-0 overall) but bounced back to claim the next two as freshman standout Emily Baptista drew Sonora blood, literally and figuratively, with her powerful hits at the net. Hilmar led 21-19 in the fourth set but was unable to fend off a Sonora comeback, setting up a fifth set that went back and forth between the two schools.
“The girls were prepared; they didn’t want the season to end. They wanted another practice and another match,” Harris said. “They probably played their best match ever.”
Baptista continued to exhibit her strength on the court as teammate Haylee Pearce dished her the ball on a regular basis. Defensively, Valorie Ewing monitored the back court for Hilmar, picking up as many Wildcat shots as she could. Hilmar couldn’t stop all that Sonora’s offense had to offer, though, and its girls ended their season on the road.
“They wanted to keep going and you could see that when they were on the court,” Harris said. “They made some incredible plays and some incredible plays, so as a coach I’m happy to end the season with my team playing like that.”
Hilmar will graduate only two starting seniors, Savannah and Oliviah Gemperle. With a squad of experienced players and a new crop of talent ready to take the Gemperle twins’ place in the middle, the ‘Jackets expect another big season from their volleyball team next year.