Win the first game in straight sets — check.
Everything seemed to fall perfectly in place for the Hilmar varsity volleyball team on Wednesday night in the Yellowjackets opening regular season contest at home, only this time it counted and the same rowdy crowd from Monday's foundation game followed as they cheered on their ‘Jackets.
Los Banos failed to hang with Hilmar after the 'Jackets took their progress from Monday's loss to Pitman and built on it, winning outright and turning the tables in a 3-0 sweep, (20-14, 25-20, 25-12).
“It depends who shows up to play and I thought we played pretty well,” said Hilmar's Erin Benning, who finished with a pair of blocks. “We have been having fun and playing together. I knew we would do well in this game, especially since how we did against Pitman.”
“It helped that we played Pitman as well. It prepared us very well because it helps our back row to adjust and read the hitters and you have to start somewhere and it’s a good start,” said Hilmar junior Mariah Ahid. “Los Banos is always pretty good competition and they never give up.”
Ahid finished with a team-high 15 kills and added four aces in a night where few mistakes were made.
It helped that it wasn't the first match of the year.
“Even though we played two matches this week, we really played unofficially about eight games with the scrimmages,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “I think we will iron out our problems, which I can see now obviously with the first game, but I think we will definitely iron it out.”
Setter Hannah Pearce tallied a game-high 26 assists and freshman Julia Gonsalves finished with five digs.
The first set ended in a 7-2 run to win it by 11 points but the second was closer. Hilmar only trailed once in the second set by as many as three but never any more.
Both sides kept it close and Hilmar's youth showed in a few moments, but the team stayed mentally focused and fixed their mistakes, earning the second set after a 5-3 rally.
The third set saw the lead extend by as many as 14 points for Hilmar as they kept their play a bit smoother and cruised out of home with the sweep after winning the third set by 13 points.
“This year we are all bonding well and there is good communication on the court and every day we just seem to keep going and our defense is already growing so much since when we started,” said Ahid.
The 'Jackets will test themselves this upcoming weekend when they compete in the High-Sierra Tournament in Reno, Nevada with over 40-plus high schools competing from various areas and states.
“We will be playing some really good teams out there and hopefully we learn from it all. This tournament is a lot of fun and a bunch of tough competition,” said Harris.
Hilmar is guaranteed at least seven games but can play as many as nine according to Harris.
“Sometimes you just keep going and play about nine but its good ball,” said Harris. “I love that tournament because it’s a different section, different teams and different ball and over the years we always seem to find our click then. We go a day early and spend time together.”
The two-day tournament will begin on Friday in Reno at a time yet to be announced and against an opponent that has yet be determined.