MERCED — Marcia-Marie Rosson could sense her Merced High volleyball team didn't have it Thursday night.
The Bears took their home court with energy and physicality, going toe-to-toe with Pitman's big hitters.
But Rosson feared her team was never fully engaged.
It showed in the match's crucial moments. Little separated the two Central California Conference foes in terms of set scores, but almost all the big points seemed to go the Pride's way in a 25-22, 25-20, 25-22 victory at Vince Clemons Court.
"Physically, I think we came to play and were right there with them," Rosson said. "Mentally, I think we were just very flat, and it showed up in the crunch time of the games.
"You can't beat a team like Pitman if you don't come mentally and physically ready to play. That was the result."
Things started well enough for the Bears (3-3 CCC) with Noemi Quintero, Vanessa Serna and Samantha Roberts recording consecutive kills and taking a quick 4-1 lead.
Merced led for most of the opening set, with Pitman (20-2, 6-0 CCC) finally catching up at 17-17.
Behind the serve of libero Ashleigh Phelps, the Pride ran off six unanswered points. Pitman finished off set one 25-22 and Merced was left reeling well into the second set.
Behind the big swings of Lindsey Vander Weide (match-high 16 kills) and Stephanie Simmons (9 kills) the Pride took an 18-8 lead.
Rosson urged her team to get their energy back up and the Bears responded with a late run.
Kaley Hitt and Roberts who each had a team-high 11 kills led the charge as Merced pulled within 24-20. A service error finished off the set for Pitman, but Rosson hoped the late momentum would carry over into the third set.
It never quite did.
"Pitman's a good team. There's a lot of season left and we get one more shot at them," Roberts said. "We've got to just keep playing. If we stay calm and keep our energy up, we can beat anyone."
The Bears fought to the very end, but just couldn't finish off the sets Thursday.
Serna (seven kills) tied things up at 22-22 with a third-set kill, but Merced could never get out in front.
Pitman closed the match with three straight points, sealing the victory with Lauren Solis' ace.
"Our block really let us down tonight," Rosson said. "You can't have just two recorded blocks against Pitman and be successful.
"They got a lot of clean hits and that allowed them to go on some of those big runs."
Sun-Star sports writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or email@example.com.