One match separates the Turlock High volleyball team from a return trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals.
There's just one problem: Tuesday's opponent might be the scariest in the tournament, based on what it has accomplished in the last week
No. 7 Pleasant Grove (24-10) spoiled Pitman's three-year run as the Division I darling and then stunned No. 2 Oak Ridge in five sets last Thursday to clinch its third semifinal appearance in four seasons.
The third-seeded Bulldogs (31-8) looks to avoid another Eagles upset on Tuesday evening and continue the city of Turlock's presence in the D-I final.
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If there has been one benefit to Pleasant Grove's unlikely postseason run it's that Thursday's win over Oak Ridge gave Turlock another home date. The match begins at 7 p.m. inside the Bulldogs' quonset hut.
The Bulldogs and Eagles are familiar with one another. Turlock has won the last two meetings: 2-1 on Sept. 30 at the Christine Craft Tournament, and 3-0 in the 2016 section quarterfinals. The Bulldogs were eventually beaten by Pitman in the 2016 section final, 3-0.
One year later, Turlock is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in program history. The Bulldogs won the Central California Conference outright and have 31 wins, second-most in the MaxPreps era.
Reigning Bee player of the year Julia Handy is fourth in the state and No. 1 in the section in assists with 1,058. Handy, who is committed to the University of Arizona, surpassed the 4,000 assists for her career in a five-set victory over Pitman.
Hannah Pearce of Hilmar (27-13) isn't far behind.
Pearce is seventh in the state in assists with 991 and should top 1,000 for the second time in three seasons on Tuesday when the top-seeded Yellowjackets host No. 4 Union Mine. Hilmar hasn't dropped a set in the Division IV playoffs, sweeping No. 16 Encina and No. 9 Central Catholic to reach the semifinal round.
Hilmar is seeking its fifth consecutive D-VI finals appearance.
The Stanislaus District is guaranteed at least one finalist in divisions IV and VI.
In Division IV, opposite No. 1 Hilmar, No. 2 Bret Harte (20-8) hosts No. 11 Escalon (17-10), the third-place team in the Trans-Valley League. The Cougars have caught fire in the postseason, sweeping No. 6 Bear River and No. 3 Calaveras.
In D-VI, No. 2 Big Valley Christian (28-5) welcomes No. 6 Ripon Christian (18-14), while No. 4 Stone Ridge Christian (22-8) goes on the road to No. 1 Woodland Christian. Big Valley Christian, the CCAA champion, is seeking its first section title, while Ripon Christian has hung a section-best 15 blue banners.
The top-seeded Sonora girls water polo team and No. 4 Christian Brothers tangle in the semifinal round of the D-III playoffs on Tuesday morning at Johansen High. The match is slated to begin at 9 a.m.
Later, No. 5 Buhach Colony looks for the upset in a D-II semifinal with No. 1 Rio Americano at 11:30 p.m., also at Johansen.