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Pitman volleys over Merced, 3-0
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Junior Whitney Barnes of Pitman finished Thursday's game with seven kills and two blocks as the Pride swept Merced 3-0. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Since their loss to Turlock back on Oct. 4, Pitman volleyball has been on a tear in the last three Central California Conference contests and Thursday night was no different. 


Pitman only trailed once in three sets by as many as two points but other than that, the Pride were dominating once again in league as they swept through Merced with ease, 3-0, (25-3, 25-9 and 25-10).


“We’ve been focusing on staying strong, not only physically but mentally and the girls have a new found motivation at practice to work harder and our motto is to practice how we play,” said Pitman head coach Kristen Pontes-Christian. “So we stepped it up at practice, messed with the lineup a bit.”


All looks well once again for the reigning Division I section champions, who now look even more driven heading into the Stockton Classic Tournament. It’s a tournament that the Pride competed in last year and saw competition they otherwise wouldn't get.


“We wanted to work on the kinks going into the Stockton Classic this weekend,” said Pontes-Christian. “It’s for us to step it up because we are not going to have any easy games or easy points. It’s going to be an all out battle from beginning to end and its going to be lots of fun since we haven't had that yet for a full day.”


But before this Saturday, the Pride had to go through the Merced Bears, who have an accomplished athletics program.


The Pride looked past their history and took over the game with their outstanding playing, especially from their starting rotation which allowed Merced to get just one point before the Pride made a sub with the score at 20-1. The Pride won the first set by 22 points.


Sixteen points was the difference in the second set and Pitman rolled through into a 15 point victory in the third set after an error from the Bears ended it at 25-10.


“I thought tonight was good,” said Pontes-Christian. “We are working different lineups and everyone played tonight, which is great, it’s what we want. I feel we never really let down, it was pretty steady the entire time so I am happy with the performance.”


Yisel Perez topped all of the Pride with 12 kills while Whitney Barnes added seven kills and a pair of blocks. Marlowe Embry added 10 digs and two aces and Kiyanna Torres finished with 26 assists and six digs.


Pride improve to 18-2 overall and 8-1 in the CCC. Sixteen of the teams 18 wins have come in straight sets.


Under Pontes-Christian, the Pride have won seven or more league games since 2009. They have also won more than double digit wins overall since then, including 18 or more wins in seven consecutive seasons.


“I would say that its showing the hard work and dedication of the program and the players in it because they are playing year around, all the touches, the nonstop work is paying off,” said Pontes-Christian.


The hunt for the CCC title with crosstown Turlock continues for the Pride who will next take on Buhach Colony on the road, a team that defeated Turlock, at 6 p.m. Tuesday.