Wednesday marked the halfway point of the Trans Valley League season for the Hilmar varsity volleyball team as they hosted league rival and second place Escalon High. The squad had an opportunity to take the sole position of first place in the league and they didn’t let it slip by them.
Backed by the team’s dependable ability to execute, Hilmar (24-5, 6-0), came out in the first two games with a goal in mind—dominate the opposing side—and they did until reaching the third game of the match.
It didn’t take long for the undefeated Yellowjackets of Hilmar to take care of business until they dropped the third game by the largest margin—13 points—before settling into their groove and eventually capping off the night with a 3-1 victory, (25-14, 25-13, 12-25 and 25-16).
“When we went into the fourth I told our girls to play like we want to win because we did not have the mentality to win at that point, so we just had to pick up our mentality in order to win,” said Hilmar senior and captain Emily Baptista.
“It’s always a good game with Escalon. I think the girls relaxed in that third game since we controlled the first two so they came out and were relaxed then some bad passes happened and our girls imploded,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “Basically I told them to move on and forget the loss.”
Hilmar went on to torch Escalon in the fourth and final game of the night edging out the Cougars for the eighth consecutive time in a row.
In fact, the last time Escalon varsity volleyball defeated Hilmar was back on Oct. 23, 2012, but since then the Yellowjackets have been rolling over their TVL rivals.
“Escalon is a good team and they took it to us and shoved it back down our throats in the third game since we let our guards down,” said Baptista, who is 8-2 all-time against Escalon. “We were lucky to forget about that one and win the fourth.”
Escalon was not going to be denied a victory in one of the games and after going down 0-2 to Hilmar, they fought hard in the third, taking a quick 5-2 lead before extending it to 13-3.
At one point, Escalon was up 20-9 and Hilmar notched back-to-back points only to allow Escalon to pull away from the third game with a 5-2 run.
“Most of those points were our errors but I tell them all the time that they cannot let down,” said Harris. “Especially against a team like Escalon, they will come back. They won’t let us win, we have to earn it, but luckily we came out much better in the fourth game and got back on fire.”
Hilmar’s attacking and consistency on defense paid dividends in the fourth and final game, which became a crucial match.
Escalon notched the first points, but Hilmar unleashed a series of attacks along with great digging to provide the spark needed and after multiple timeouts from Escalon once Hilmar rallied, it was just about over.
“I am happy with the way we played but we need to continue practicing and improving because we can’t have let downs like that game in the middle,” said Hilmar’s Avery Martin, who finished with a game-high 27 digs.
Baptista tacked on a team-high 26 kills along with four aces and Hannah Pearce was fierce again with a game-high 43 assists. Mariah Ahid added four aces and three blocks as the Yellowjackets have won 14 straight contests.
“Feels good to finally take over the sole position after some tough home games. It’s good we had our loud home crowd since all of our boys do a good job of coming out and supporting us with the cheers,” Harris added. “They all did well.”
The next game for the first place Yellowjackets will be a home league contest against Riverbank at 6:30 p.m. Monday.