Tracy High volleyball coach Cat Ebojo-Vaughns tried to stack her team’s pre-league season with tough competition this year.
Wednesday’s 3-1 win against Pitman High of Turlock was an illustration of how hard the Bulldogs have worked to start their season with a 4-0 record.
The Bulldogs have 10 matches on the schedule before they get into league play later this month, not including tournaments, and eight of their opponents made the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs last year.
Improving on their early wins, Ebojo-Vaughns wants to see the Bulldogs sweep teams in straight sets. On Wednesday, Tracy started with a loss in the first set against Pitman but then won three in a row, 20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-19.
“We’re definitely getting off to a slow start, but we get better with each game,” Ebojo-Vaughns said. “Trying to find fluidity is our big challenge right now. We tend to go up and down. We’ve only been able to close out one match in three. The rest, we’ve always dropped a set.”
The Bulldogs have seven returning players on their 12-player roster, including two seniors, Leila Sardinha and Briahna Garcia, who have been playing varsity volleyball since their freshman year.
Garcia said that last year’s success, when Tracy shared the Tri-City Athletic League title with St. Mary’s, came with the help of some strong seniors who graduated in May, but she’s not worried about her team’s chances of leading the league again.
“It’s a pretty big transition with losing some really good hitters that we had last year, but I think this year we’re doing really good, especially having new girls coming up,” she said, noting that Jianna Palmer and Chloe Lemons, both freshmen, quickly picked up the pace of varsity play. “I think we’re clicking very well in preseason and we’ll do really good in league.”
Lemons, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, said she’s glad to find that she fits in on the Bulldog team.
“It’s been really great so far. The teamwork and senior leadership has been great, and just working as a team. The communication has been on point. Everything is there,” she said. “I’m looking forward to personally getting better in the front row and back row.”
In Wednesday’s first set, the Pitman Pride launched into a couple of extended scoring runs to take a 15-6 lead. Tracy junior Natalie Laiolo and Palmer teamed up at the net to get the Bulldogs back in contention, but the team couldn’t make up the deficit.
After a close start to the second set, Laiolo scored a series of points from the service line to give Tracy the lead, and Sardinha went to the service line at the end to close out the set in Tracy’s favor.
Sardinha led the way again at the start of the third set, putting Tracy in the lead early. Pitman would get close a couple of times, but Laiolo and Garcia were a strong presence at the net, guiding their team to the win.
Tracy also held the lead through the fourth set, with Lemons and Sardinha making key shots.
Laiolo was Tracy’s attacking leader with 18 kills for the night, and she had 18 assists. Garcia totaled 11 kills for the night, Sardinha scored seven kills and four serving aces, and senior Teia Magaoay had 18 assists.
Mountain House 3, Freedom 1
Though injuries have left the Mountain House volleyball team with a small roster early in the season, the Mustangs came through with a 3-1 win at Freedom High in Oakley on Tuesday, 25-19, 25-22, 8-25, 25-22.
Coach Rosalinda Rodriguez said the team had a difficult time setting up offensive strikes, but after a rough third set, the Mustangs regained their focus.
Junior outside hitter Helen Earle came through with eight kills for the night to lead her team to the win.
Kimball 3, Mountain House 0
The Jaguars beat local rival Mountain House in straight sets Friday, 25-13, 26-24, 25-22.
Junior Samantha Mayer led the Jaguar team with 27 assists, 11 digs, three serving aces and three kills. Senior Raia Maamo scored 14 kills and had nine digs, junior Rein Bocage had 18 digs, senior Rachel Van Katwyk scored nine kills, and junior Aislinn Coombs scored six aces.
Kimball’s junior varsity team swept Mountain House, 25-10, 25-19, and the Jaguar freshmen also won in two, 25-12, 25-13.
Kimball 3, Liberty 2
The Jaguars came from behind and took the Liberty Lions to five sets Aug. 29 in Brentwood.
Kimball turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win, 25-21, 20-25, 19-25, 26-24, 15-12.
Maamo led the Jaguars’ attack with 26 kills for the night, and she had 19 digs. Senior Madison Rodriguez added 13 kills, junior Nicole Mayer scored eight aces and had 15 digs, junior Samantha Mayer provided 49 assists and had 17 digs, and Bocage had 38 digs.
Kimball won the junior varsity match in three sets, 13-25, 25-20, 15-10, and the Jaguars also won the freshman match in three, 20-25, 25-17, 15-5.
The Kimball High junior varsity volleyball team claimed the championship trophy at the Orestimba Tournament in Newman on Saturday. The Jaguars swept all their matches, including 2-0 wins over Ripon Christian, Pacheco and Millennium in pool play and 2-0 wins in the gold bracket over West and Lodi, plus a 2-0 win against Gregori High in the championship match.