A nearly packed house came to watch this year's much anticipated volleyball matchup between the two powers of the Central California Conference in Turlock and Pitman at the Pitman High gym on Wednesday.
What the spectators witnessed was a thrilling crosstown rivalry game that came down to the wire in the fourth game.
Turlock nearly pulled off a comeback after being down by as many as six points but when the game was within one point, Pitman's lone timeout paid dividends, as the Pride pulled away with the victory, topping Turlock out, 3-1, [25-22, 16-25, 25-15 and 25-22].
“I wanted us to finish it right then and there. Turlock came out strong and pushed the whole time and we definitely did not want to take it to the fifth,” said Pitman head coach Hailee Hernandez. “They got up and kept pushing. It was important to finish the game then.”
“We were way down and fought back but they had to decide how we would play or lay down, but it was just a little too late,” said Turlock head coach Amber Castillon. “I am proud of their performance but there are some things we need to continue to work on, so back to the drawing board for us.”
Turlock has now lost in back-to-back contests for the first time this year, but still holds an overall record of 24-5 and 4-1 in the CCC.
The Pitman Pride are 18-3 overall and notch their fifth straight league victory of the season including a 54 win streak over CCC opponents.
“Coach [Kristen] Pontes-Christian has kept the program and team strong and it’s fun to be a part of it,” said Hernandez. “This is bigger than just them right now because they have had a streak going for so long, it puts pressure on them but its good because they push hard and it’s fun facing tough competition.”
Wednesday's game was a tough home match for the Pride as they met a tough opponent in Turlock who came out confident that they could hang with last year's State runner-ups.
Pitman notched a close three point in the first of four games, before the Turlock Bulldogs found a rhythm and began to click, edging out Pitman, 25-16, in the second game.
“We struggled for a little bit in the first few sets but then we picked it up in the third and fourth and we knew it was possible,” said Pitman senior Lauren Solis. “We started to get too comfortable and complacent and we just need to work on that.”
The third game was all Pitman, as they came out and pulled out with the games only double-digit win (10).
“I feel we had some moments of nervousness, especially at the beginning and end but we settled for a bit then got rattled, let the best get to us and we did not function well,” said Pitman's Whitney Barnes. “Luckily we pulled together and stayed with it and did what we do.”
Barnes was critical for the game with her monster 14 kills and three aces. Yisel Perez also contributed 14 kills and Solis contributed with 10 digs and two aces.
Pitman's Kiyanna Torres tallied a game-high 39 assists along with two aces.
The Pride ended up winning the fourth and final game by a tight three points for the team's 19 consecutive win over Turlock, dating back to the 2009 season.
“There is pressure coming into this game because we also know we own a win streak against Turlock, but we tried to stayed focus and positive and we knew we could do it if we stuck with it the whole time,” said Solis.
The last time Turlock defeated Pitman in volleyball was on Oct. 30, 2008.
Turlock's Emily Romo and Jadyn Tubbs tied for a team-high in kills (14). Julia Handy added a team-high with 32 assists.
“Our girls did not give up because they could have laid down at the end there, but they did not and you can't ever count them out,” Castillon added.
Next for both Turlock and Pitman will be a competitive tournament, the Stockton Classic at Lincoln High School beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.