TURLOCK — The Merced volleyball team couldn't have scripted a better start.
Marcia-Marie Rosson watched as her players came out and played without making any mistakes on their way to winning the first game.
That performance by the Bears, however, woke up a lion.
Pitman roared back, outscoring Merced 75-29 in the final three games as the Pride beat the Bears 23-25, 25-9, 25-6, 25-14 on Tuesday night at Pitman High.
"Unfortunately, we rolled over," said Rosson, whose team dropped to 8-8 overall and 7-4 in the Central California Conference. "We played at a level we've played at the last couple games in that first game. Unfortunately, we couldn't carry it through the last couple games."
The Bears put on a show early.
Samantha Roberts had three kills and a block in the opening game. Rheanne Lewis was diving all over the floor in the back row, keeping balls alive.
At one point, the Bears ran off 10 points in a row against the Pride to take a 19-10 lead.
"I thought my girls fought and battled hard. I just wish they came out ready to play in the first game," said Pitman coach Kristen Pontes. "We just made too many mistakes and Merced didn't."
Trailing 19-10, the Pride got rolling and almost caught Merced late, cutting the score to 24-23 before Merced escaped with the 25-23 win.
The Bears then fell a part in game two. After no service errors in the first game, Merced committed errors on its first four serves in the second game as Pitman jumped out to an 11-3 lead.
The Bears never made a run.
The third game only got worse as the Pride sprinted out to an 18-4 lead.
Lindsey Vander Weide paced the Pride with 20 kills. Maddy Halteman orchestrated the offense with 34 assists.
"We just woke up," Pontes said. "We figured Merced came to play, so we had to do the same. Our hitters came on, our defenders started moving and everyone started playing."
The win clinched at least a share of a third consecutive CCC title for Pitman (11-0 CCC).
Merced was led by Vanesa Serna's nine kills. Kaylee Hitt had four blocks and Lewis finished with 20 digs.
"My frustration is beyond measure right now," Rosson said. "It's only because I know what this team can do."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.