Bear River looks to sting Hilmar in Section semis |

Bear River looks to sting Hilmar in Section semis

Bear River's Savannah Wirth, left, and Kirsten Pereira attempt a block during a second-round playoff game against Los Banos Thursday at Jack R. McCrory gymnasium.
John Hart/ | The Union

Know & Go

What: Sac-Joaquin Section Div-IV girls volleyball playoffs

Who: No. 3 Bear River at No. 2 Hilmar

When: 7 p.m., today

Where: Hilmar High School, 7807 N Lander Ave, Hilmar

Bear River’s bid for a second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV girls volleyball title resumes today as the No. 3 seed Lady Bruins travel to Hilmar to take on the Lady Yellow Jackets.

Hilmar is the No. 2 seed in the Division-IV bracket, the Trans Valley League champ and has 36 wins this season to just seven losses. But one of those losses is to Bear River, coming at the Stockton Classic Oct. 19. Hilmar hasn’t lost since.

“We are ready to roll,” Bear River head coach Matt MacDonald said. “(Hilmar) is a really good serve and pass team. So for us, we need to continue that recent trend of playing really good defense.

Bear River and Hilmar have actually met twice this season with the Lady Yellow Jackets beating the Lady Bruins 2-1 at the Reno High Sierra Tournament Aug. 31.

“We’ve seen them a couple times and got some film,” MacDonald said. “Coming into it, we know a lot about them.”

Hilmar beat Summerville in the first round before bouncing last year’s Division-IV runner-up, Ripon Christian, in four sets. The Lady Yellow Jackets are led by 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore Emily Baptista. The talented hitter has 36 kills, four aces and three blocks in two postseason games.

“They have this big outside hitter, and she’s a sophomore, but she’s the real deal,” MacDonald said. “She’s the hardest hitter we’ve seen.”

Baptista is surrounded by strong complimentary players such as hitter Lexie Victoria with 16 kills and eight aces in the playoffs, Val Ewing with 58 digs and Brittney Fielder with 16 kills. Haylee Pearce sets the table for Hilmar with 73 assists in two playoff games.

The Lady Bruins (20-14) are in the section semifinals for the fourth straight year after beating Marysville in the first round and Los Banos in round two. Bear River is yet to drop a set in the postseason, getting impressive play from senior Kirsten Pereira with 32 kills, six blocks and four aces through the two victories. Senior Teryn Rath has also played well in the postseason with a total of 21 kills, two aces and two blocks. Sophomore Kaely Rath has contributed 11 kills and three blocks, and sophomore setter Savannah Wirth has racked up an average of 30 assists per game. And the secret ingredient that makes the Lady Bruin machine hum and the player that MacDonald has beamed about all season, Hannah Christianson, is leading the team with 23 digs.

The play of seniors Christianson, Pereira and Teryn Rath has been the foundation for the Lady Bruins all season, but the quality play from their underclassmen, Kaely Rath, Wirth and Ashley Albee, has made all the difference, said MacDonald.

“All those girls are playing at their highest level right now,” he said. “They are just playing phenomenal, and it’s why our offense is so balanced. If Kaely and Ashlee can get those five, six kills a game it lessens the double-teams Kirsten and Teryn see.”

As always, the Lady Bruins will travel well with 60-70 students taking the two-and-a-half-hour trip to Hilmar on a charter bus to watch the game.

“It’s crazy,” MacDonald said. “The Bruin Nation is amazing. No one brings the fans that we do. They just come out in droves.”

The semifinal match gets started at 7 p.m. today at Hilmar High School.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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