It wasn't hard to tell which team had five returning senior starters.
After a slow start, Hilmar's experience showed.
Setter Madison Harris ran the offense smoothly, setting up teammates Caitlin Benning, Lindsay Miguel and Stesha Brazil for easy kills.
Hilmar barely broke a sweat in a 25-19, 25-17, 25-10 sweep of Merced.
"Having five seniors is nice," Hilmar coach Mike Alvernaz said. "We had a strong group move up from JV, too. They work well together.
"But we did come out flat. We didn't pass well. Once we woke up, we were fine.
"Our goal is to get further in the playoffs, and if we play like we did tonight, that's not going to cut it."
Miguel led the way with eight kills. Harris finished with 21 assists and Benning collected three blocks.
After the first game was closely contested throughout, Hilmar jumped out to an early 10-4 and 13-3 leads in the final two games.
"Once our defense picked up, we got the ball to our setter and actually ran plays," Benning said. "We got to hit the ball and have some fun."
Merced coach Brooke Wilson doesn't have the same wealth of experience.
In fact, it's quite the opposite.
With only two players returning who saw extended time on the court, Wilson will spend the next few weeks tweaking rotations and experimenting with new lineups.
Senior Kelsie Hanson paced Merced with seven kills and 11 digs.
"I was happy with the way we played the first two games," Wilson said. "We don't have that trust with the person who is playing next to you.
"That's the first time we used that rotation. We'll look to see what works.
"That's what the preseason is for... to see what we have to work on."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
HILMAR 3, MERCED 0
25-19, 25-17 25-10
HILMAR -- Kills: Lindsay Miguel 8; Blocks: Caitlin Benning 3; Assists: Madison Harris 21; Digs: Lindsey Mendes 12; Aces: Stesha Brazil 5.
MERCED -- Kills: Kelsie Hanson 7; Blocks: Kuuipolani Vraceros 2; Assists: Meredith Long 16; Digs: Hanson 11; Aces: Nicole Vieira 2.
Records: Hilmar 7-1; Merced 0-1.