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The California Pintos volleyball team won 3-2 against Eldon on June 16 in a summer match. Eldon won the first and fifth sets, while California won the second, third and fourth sets.

The Pintos led 13-12 in the first set, but Eldon won three of the next five points to tie the game at 15. The teams traded points until Eldon led 21-20 late in the set. California tied the set at 21-21 and later at 22-22, but Eldon won three of the last four points to take the first set 25-23.

Head coach Julie Bailey said the team was excited to be playing again. Bailey said there are a few areas the team needs to improve on, but that will come with more playing time.

“Our team has been so excited to be back on the court and out of the house (and) I have been truly enjoying their enthusiasm and team play,” Bailey said. “We have some younger players stepping into new roles, and they have met that challenge well. Our girls are moving to the ball nicely, but we need to continue to improve the accuracy of our passing and to utilize our middles more. All of that will come with more court time and repeated skills practice that we do at the start of the season.”

The Pintos lost five seniors after this past season, but Bailey said the team has players with plenty of experience ready to fill their roles and the team will be exciting to watch.

“The seniors we lost were skilled players with great leadership and character. I am already missing them, but I am blessed with amazing young ladies with lots of volleyball experience,” Bailey said. “It will be fun to see what this new group can accomplish, because the pieces are there.”

The second set was also close, as neither team was able to build a large lead early on. California eventually led 13-10, but Eldon kept it close and won three of the next four points to make it a 14-13 game. The Pintos responded with a run of their own to extend their lead to 22-15. Eldon did not go quietly, however, rallying to make it a 24-24 game. Later, with the score tied at 25-25, California was able to win the next two points in a row to take the set 27-25.

The third set was another tight one, as California trailed 9-4 early on. The team was able to fight back to make it a two-point game at 11-9. The Pintos stayed within striking distance with the score 12-10 and then 16-14 before finally tying the game up at 16-16. The Pintos took the lead at 17-16 and then later again at 18-17. The Pintos won the next three points in a row to take a 21-17 lead. But again, Eldon kept the set close and made it a 23-21 game and later a 24-22 game before the Pintos won their second set in a row 25-22.

The Pintos struggled to close out the second and third sets in the game and Bailey said it had a lot to due with what Eldon was doing.

“It seemed as though our struggle with closing out the sets were a lot about what Eldon was able to do in one of their really strong rotations,” Bailey said. “My girls are very coachable and will adapt as needed. In the fourth set, the girls were starting to adjust a little bit to their power hitter, and that helped.”

The Pintos had a little bit more breathing room in the fourth set as they led 10-5 early on. Eldon got within one point at 10-9, but California responded by winning six of the next seven points to make it 16-10. Later, California lead 20-12 — Eldon tried to get back into the game as the team made it a 20-15 game. But California ended the set by winning five of the next eight points to win their third set in a row 25-18.

The teams played all five sets as they get experience with what playing matches to best three-out-of-five will be like during the regular season.

“We played Tipton on June 9 and Eldon on June 16. The coaches decided we wanted the girls to play as much as they could, so we played all five sets instead of best three-out-of-five,” Bailey said. “It has been good for the players to realize how much energy it is going to take to play five sets and has helped them to understand the need to lift and condition this summer and fall to be prepared for those long nights. By the fourth and fifth sets, they are tired, and after five, they are exhausted. They were all up this morning and in the weight room ready to work, get stronger, and build endurance. They are a great group.”

Bailey said this will be important experience for next season’s competitions.

“This season, at least 50 percent of varsity matches must be best three-out-of-five,” Bailey said. “The fifth set will be to 15. JV will remain best two out of three with a possible shortened third set to 15 if agreed to by both coaches.”

The team played its next match Tuesday against Capital City.

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