Hilmar High’s volleyball team was one point away — twice — from claiming its first ever section title on Thursday in the Division-IV CIF Sac Joaquin Section title game at UC Davis.
After winning the first two games against the number one seed Sonora High, then losing the next two, the Yellowjackets found themselves neck and neck in the final game but were unable to come out victorious as they faltered in five, (25-23, 25-17, 20-25, 17-25 and 16-18).
“I am a little shook up its good winning the first two games but Sonora kept it on and forced a lot of errors on our part,” Hilmar head coach Patti Harris said. “I felt like it was a great experience, like I told the girls they need to hold their heads high because they did something great today.”
Up two games, the ‘Jackets crumbled in the third, but it was in the fourth game when things collapsed — completely.
“We just got too excited with our lead and Sonora is a great team. They didn’t let us slack off or anything,” Hilmar sophomore Emily Baptista said. “When we were one point away, it felt like we could do it and it felt overwhelming. We were not thinking about what we were doing, just not smart play at the end.”
Eight points away from being crowned champs, Sonora called a timeout down 17-12 and then quickly came out firing on all cylinders as they scored 13 unanswered points to take it to a fifth match.
“We got a little too excited, we didn’t keep our composure and we didn’t play our game as well as we did the first two games,” Hilmar senior Valerie Ewing said.
Consistent play from Sonora’s Libero Bailey Henington caused Hilmar to struggle on the offensive side as it became a back-breaking game with both squads going back and forth till the very end, but the Wildcats were too much to handle.
“We had to fight for every single point and we just didn’t have the energy to keep fighting after the lead,” Baptista said.
Despite falling in the section title match, this is the most successful year in Hilmar volleyball history, including the first time since 1988 that the ‘Jackets were crowned Trans Valley League champions.
“It is a great year. We have been so successful and even coming in and losing we are fine with that because we are happy with what we accomplished this season,” Baptista said. “I think next year we will come back strong and fight, fight for the TVL again. We want to come back and get the title.”
“I am so proud of this team because they have done something that is a big deal, sections is huge. I feel we will be back here again, I really feel it,” Harris said. “Sonora is a good team and they pushed us. I thought we would have a nail biter and I just think the girls had their nerves rattled a bit.”
Baptista had a killer game with 38 kills and an ace. Haylee Pearce topped out with 55 assists. Brittney Fielder, who led the Yellowjackets all season long finished with three blocks. Senior Val Ewing finished with 50 digs.
“I think we can walk away with pride because we did a very good job keeping our heads up,” Ewing said. “If there’s anything that this team taught me is being a team and we held together very well regardless of the outcome. This match was huge, last year we had a tough time but also this time and we had a strategy it’s a bit of a bummer.”