It was the second game of Pitman High’s second round playoff match against Oak Ridge High and the score was tied, 22-22. The Pride had just bested the Trojans in a first game battle and the two teams were again going tit-for-tat — the match’s momentum was on the line.
Pride head coach Kristen Pontes called a timeout and reminded her team of their goal, prompting her players to return to the court where they scored three consecutive points to claim the second game before they officially reserved a spot in the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section semi-final match with a straight-game victory (25-20, 25-22, 25-17).
“I just always remind them of what we have accomplished and what we are striving to do this season as far as making the post-season and we really wanted to only go three games,” Pontes said of her timeout pep talk. “We would have gone four or five, but we really wanted to get it done in three.”
Oak Ridge, the Delta River League runner ups, tested the Pride from the get go. Both teams took turns delivering crushing shots, covering the court with impressive saves, and riling up the crowd in Pitman’s gym with thrilling rallies.
But each time the Trojans climbed back to tie the score or threaten Pitman’s lead, junior Lindsey Vander Weide was at the net to push them back with her power.
“Lindsey is huge, dominating. Not many players can keep up with Lindsey, defensively or as blockers,” Pontes said. “She was huge for us tonight. Very consistent and they really couldn’t do anything with her.”
The future Oregon Duck finished the night with 16 kills and a pair of blocks, but perhaps her biggest contribution was her ability to marshal her team when needed and keep the momentum away from the Trojans.
“I just know that we’re going to have to pull out of tough situations and that’s when I really focus in,” Vander Weide said. “We came in here confident but ready to play a tough team and we won.”
Defensively, the tandem of Terri Gallon and Melinda Gonzalez at the net and the hustle of Ashleigh Phelps in the back court helped to keep the Pride in the match.
“Terri and Melinda put up big blocks and they kept the blockers on their toes because they were faking and they were doing the things they should have been doing. On the net, it was a stellar performance,” Pontes said.
After edging Oak Ridge in the first two games, Pitman put their foot down in the third in what was their easiest game-win of the night. Now Pitman is set to compete in the furthest stage of a post-season tournament in school history.
“We expected a fight from beginning to end, and that’s exactly what we got. That’s what you expect from playoffs,” Pontes said. “We’re thrilled because this is exactly what we’ve been waiting for all season long.”
Pitman will travel to face Granite Bay High on Tuesday, the Sierra Foothill League power house and second ranked volleyball team in the state.
“We’re really excited to go against the number one, dominating, undefeated Granite Bay. It’s going to be fun,” Pontes said. “No matter what happens for the outcome, we’ve made it the farthest we’ve ever made it, top four semi-finals, and I’m so proud of the girls. They’ve worked so hard and we’re really excited for Tuesday.”
“We’ve never gone to the third round before, we’ve been stuck at the second round the whole time and we really wanted to get to third round,” Vander Weide said. “I am nervous because everybody says they’re a great team, but if we play like we did tonight we have a great chance at winning.”