Last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I (Turlock) and Division-IV (Hilmar) champions squared off in a pre-league contest Thursday from the Turlock High Bulldogs gym.
Both teams are coming off their respective programs’ most successful years to-date, winning league and section titles.
To make things more interesting, Turlock and Hilmar are two of seven teams across seven divisions to hoist a blue banner in the entire section.
When all was said and done, the Yellowjackets of Hilmar came out with a straight sets sweep (27-25, 25-23 and 25-13) over the Bulldogs.
“Second game barely, obviously, we are work in progress, we have a ton of talent and we are very young and the girls will continue to grow and get better every game,” said Turlock head coach Amber Lugo. “Yes, we lost tonight, but we stayed with them in first two sets and third set was not our night but I can legitimately say I love this team, ton of heart and talent and we will fight through this and be just fine.”
Domination has been the story recently for both teams, which have gone on to make seven Sac-Joaquin Section Championship final appearances, combined, over the last five seasons from 2013-2017.
Hilmar made appearances in the last five D-IV section finals and in some ways picked up where they left off last year at the state tournament.
“The girls did really well. They came out ready with a lot of energy because this team has a lot of energy and they play well together,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “On and off the court, they are seasoned…They have really learned to talk and communicate on the court, just pushing and pushing to get better and better.”
It was a battle in the first two sets as one would expect from the defending section champions.
Turlock got up early in the opening set, taking a 12-7 lead at one point before Hilmar swarmed back and rallied.
Hilmar outscored Turlock 6-1 in a quick turnaround, tying it at 13-13.
The first set saw the score tied eight more times before the conclusion ended with Hilmar winning 27-25.
In the second set, the story was nearly the same with the score going back and forth, with no team leading by more than four points during the set. Tied at 23, Hilmar pulled away to get the final two points to win it.
Hilmar breezed through the third set, winning by 12 points, with Turlock committing multiple errors to close out the game.
“We did very well, early in the season, everyone has their glitches, but we are close to picking up where we left off, but maybe even better,” Harris said. “We have a great setter in Emma Martin, she is awesome and a hustler, doing so well for us. Last year she was outside and now setting, she is a very good setter which is what you need on the court.”
Hilmar’s Michaela Petersen and Olivia Peterson finished with three aces apiece. Mikela Labno added 17 kills, Emma Martin tallied a team-high 40 assists. Julia Gonsalves added 17 digs and Genavieve Fontes finished with eight blocks.
Hilmar will next travel to Beyer High to take on the Patriots at 6 p.m. Monday.
Turlock’s next game will be at home against Lincoln of Stockton at 6 p.m. Tuesday.