Grind it out till you win; league champions couldn’t feel sweeter.
It was a battle for the Hilmar High’s volleyball team on Wednesday night as they hosted second-place Escalon for the Trans Valley League title.
Hilmar came out rocking in the first game, picking up where they left off from the previous meeting, but the second and third games were all Escalon as they were within reach of the upset.
Fortunately for the young ‘Jackets squad they were able to bounce back after being down 2-1 to finish off the Cougars in a 3-2 win for their second consecutive TVL championship (25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 25-19 and 15-7).
“It’s just amazing. Amazing… especially winning league my senior year, obviously doing it my junior year as well was great but it’s just amazing,” said senior and co-captain Haylee Pearce.
“The girls did well, now two years in a row undefeated in league it’s a big deal and the girls worked hard all season and now we are really looking forward to the playoffs,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris.
With the win, the ‘Jackets are now 9-0 in the TVL and 34-8 overall.
Since Harris took over in 2009, her team has never amassed less than eight league wins per season and have tallied over 25 wins in the last four years along with back-to-back 34-plus win seasons.
Needless to say, the past two years have been arguably the most successful seasons for Hilmar volleyball.
“Sure we have our moments but this year we are a very young team,” Harris said. ”Having just two seniors it’s tough but these girls worked hard in the offseason and really you could see what they could do and I am proud of them, they have done well.”
The young ‘Jackets were still not phased for the whole game, except for the mid-part of the matchup when the Cougars had bested Hilmar in the second and third games, 20-25.
“I told our girls that they needed to play their game instead of their [Escalon’s] game and that we needed to put pressure on them so they can make the errors,” Harris said. “I felt that in that slump, we were making a lot of our own mistakes, missing serves, stuff like that.”
Hilmar was looking shaky and nothing like they have all season long, making mental mistakes and errors on countless occasions but they knew what needed to be done.
“We did,” said Pearce when asked if they had gotten nervous during the match. “We calmed it down and got it out of our heads, that’s what it was, a head game. It all worked out.”
The fourth game seemed to be the turnaround for the ‘Jackets as they found themselves down 1-2 early on, but they buckled down and did not give up the lead for the remainder of the match.
“I just told our team that this is it and this is our season,” Pearce said to her team before going on a 2-0 run in the final two games to win it all. “This is our game, we just needed to show them who we are and also to make the best of it, we had to.”
Hilmar won the fourth game by six points and eventually dominated the fifth and final game by eight to clinch the league title and a postseason berth.
The two co-captains, Pearce and Emily Baptista would help the ‘Jackets lift the title after each finished with astronomical numbers.
“Escalon is a good team; defensively they always pick it up and always good ball there. The girls came out and they knew what to do, they know exactly what to do and how they need to play, which is come out and put the pressure on, keep the pressure on and try to make the other team make mistakes.”
Next for Hilmar before the postseason is their final TVL match against Riverbank scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“I feel confident that we can make a nice run in the postseason,” said Pearce about her team’s ability to make a lengthy postseason push. “I think we are just as good as last year, so we’ll see.”