ATWATER -- To kick off the biggest week of the season, Megan Callahan and the Buhach Colony volleyball team did what most girls do.
They broke out the puff paint and the Sharpies — and made shirts.
Specifically, “Beat Atwater” T-shirts — just without mention of “beat” or “Atwater.”
“We don’t want to jinx ourselves,” Callahan said with an uneasy laguh. “Maybe we’ll write it on afterwards.”Their fears are genuine.
Buhach Colony (8-0, 4-0) begins the most telling stretch of its season tonight against Atwater (3-1) — a rival with its own aspirations of a Central California Conference title.
The gauntlet continues on Thursday with Golden Valley, which survived a five-game thriller with Atwater last week.
Matt Thissen’s girls, which entered the week tied with BC atop the league standings, are the only team to beat Buhach in conference play in nearly two years.
GV (4-0) plays Merced at Merced tonight.
“That’s going to be a big one,” Thissen said of Thursday’s date with Buhach. “But we need to focus on Merced first.”
Adding to the pressure are the Sac-Joaquin Section power rankings, which debut at some point next week.“We’re really focused on Atwater and Golden Valley. Those are going to be really big games,” Callahan said. “We know we have to play hard.
“We can’t let up like we have in previous games. If we let our guard down, they’re going to take advantage of it.“They’ll take our momentum and run with it.”
It’s hard to say how much momentum Buhach Colony brings into tonight’s match.
BC is undefeated in non-tournament games, but its erratic play in matches against Los Banos and Turlock last week led to some tense moments in practice.
On Friday, coach Michelle Osmer dialed back the practice plan for a more fundamental approach.It was summer workouts all over again.
Volleyball 101, if you will.
With a machine spraying balls all over the court, Osmer drilled her girls on the basics of passing and receiving.
Get low. Find your base.
Put your arms like this.
And finally, control the ball.
“That’s what it starts with — the pass,” Osmer said. “The last few games we’ve been really inconsistent, and the biggest thing has been our breakdowns in passing.
“At some point, you got to get back to the basics and that’s what we did (Friday).
“We had one of our better practices of the season. It was like a light goes on when you revisit that kind of stuff.”
BC has one of the area’s more exciting attacks ... when the pass doesn’t send setter Britney Gasper scrambling.
Callahan and Rio Schwalbach lead the club in kills with 82 and 68, respectively, and both have 90 percent attack rates.
Gasper has 170 assists.
“I would say we’re pretty dangerous, or we can be,” Callahan said. “All of our hitters are talented and strong and capable of getting a kill.
“But it’s been a little frustrating. We all want to hit, but to be successful we really need to work on our passing.
“People don’t realize that everything starts with a pass. Without the pass, you can’t get a set. And without a set, you can’t get a hit.”
And without enough hits tonight, Buhach Colony won’t have to worry about finishing those T-shirts.