Pitman High School’s dominant position in Central California Conference volleyball has reached the point where opposing teams strive merely to be competitive.
So, naturally, the Pride’s goal is to make sure its streak of straight-set routs remains intact.
As close as Merced came to battling spike-for-spike Monday was a five-point run during the second set of Pitman’s 25-10, 25-14, 25-9 stroll that made Pride coach Kristen Pontes-Christian burn a time out.
Whew, that was close.
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“We played in the Harbor Invitational over the weekend so the girls are a little mentally and physically tired,” Pontes-Christian said. “It was a loss of concentration and a little intensity, so I called time out to remind them that this was a league game and about what is at stake, and they immediately picked it up.”
What was at stake is an impressive list of streaks. Pitman (21-0, 3-0 CCC) has won three consecutive CCC titles and 37 straight conference matches. And this season, counting tournaments (matches are best two of three), the Pride is a perfect 49-0 in games played.
“I think they’re motivated by that,” Pontes-Christian said of the team not having dropped a game. “We had a game against Salinas where we were down 23-21 and we came back to win 26-24. That’s a good goal for them. This group is so competitive and so individually motivated to the point where losing is not an option. We have been able to stay consistent and let the other team make mistakes.”
That’s what happened in the second game, when Merced took an 11-8 lead. But following the timeout, a missed serve stopped the run and sent the Pride on a nine-point run to take control.
“Pitman is awesome and everybody knows that,” said Merced coach Marsha-Marie Rosson, whose Bears are 1-2 in the CCC and 3-4 in non-tournament matches. “You come in just wanting to take a little bit away from them every time. In the first 11 points of the second game we did that, and then we just kind of gave the momentum right back to them.”
Pitman’s program has developed to the point where it’s both deep and talented, boasting a mixture of upper and lower classmen on the squad that will help perpetuate the success.
The Pride is led by the senior trio of outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide (committed to the University of Oregon), setter Maddy Halteman (Fresno State) and libero Ashleigh Phelps. Halteman had 35 assists, while the 6-foot-3 Vander Weide powered her way to 16 kills.
And the streak? Vander Weide is certainly aware of how long it’s been since Pitman has lost.
“After we won our first tournament to go 14-0, we decided that why not keep winning?” Vander Weide said. “Now that we’ve come this far, we don’t want to lose that streak. We certainly don’t want to drop a match to a team that might not be as good as the teams we’ve beaten in tournaments.”