Pacheco High's volleyball team took a big step Monday with a four-game win over Ceres, giving the program its first-ever Western Athletic Conference win.
"They're coming together as a group," Pacheco coach Cory Henwood said. "We've got last year's JV team, last year's varsity team and the Panther club team, all in the mix together. We've got a huge squad, and so they're finally starting to click together."
Pacheco jumped out early, taking the first game 25-14 and the second 25-19, then slipped up in the third game, which Ceres took 25-13.
"I felt like it was at least partially my fault, because I wanted to finish it," Henwood said. "And you could tell they were tired. I left a lot of the same group on."
Pacheco jumped out 8-2 in the fourth game before Ceres called time out, and after reorganizing, Ceres came back to take a 13-12 lead.
"We just had to fight hard and not give up," said hitter Claudia Garcia. "The game was really close, and we just couldn't let an error throw us off."
Ceres led 20-17 before the momentum shifted back to Pacheco. The Panthers fought back -- Garcia was responsible for a handful of points down the stretch -- and took a 25-24 lead before finishing with a Mykayla Latronica ace that knuckled and dropped in front of a diving Ceres player.
"That was so great. I don't know, she just missed it," Latronica said. "We want to get not just one league win, we want more than one."
Garcia racked up seven kills, trailing teammate Isabel Quintero by one. The final ace was one of five by Latronica. Keana Lee-Mamea added three aces of her own, and middle blocker Jasmine Garcia owned the net with 12 blocks.
Henwood says he has seen the team make huge strides in its first year with seniors.
"The fundamentals of volleyball, they're all over it. And they're starting to make strategic decisions, not just focusing on fundamentals," the first-year varsity coach said. "In my opinion, you'll see a better squad next year. We only have four seniors that play. And one of them, this is her first year with our team."
After the win, the Panthers gathered on the court and celebrated by dancing to "Gangnam Style" -- which drew ire from the Ceres players and parents. Pacheco will play Ceres on the road in the second round of league play.
The Panthers followed up the win with a 3-0 loss to Livingston on Wednesday.
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at email@example.com