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HANFORD — Sierra Pacific displayed its athleticism and youth on the court in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Hanford to open the 2019 season.

“It was a good first game for us,” Sierra Pacific coach Julie Coelho said. “They came out strong, we have a lot of things to work on, but at the end of the day, they came together, they pushed through and they got the W.”

The Golden Bears (1-0) won the non-league match 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 25-18. In the fourth and decisive set, Sierra Pacific trailed 8-3 before scoring four points in a row to cut the lead to one. Then tied at 16, the Golden Bears closed the match on a 9-2 run ending with Ashlyn VanGronigen’s kill.

“We communicated and we just worked a lot better,” Sierra Pacific’s Olivia Fagundes said. “[The win] sets our pace and I think it’s just a good win.”

Sierra Pacific finished fast, but they got off to a slow start. Unforced errors had the team trailing 7-1 in the first set before Coelho’s timeout helped stem the tide. They responded with a 5-0 run and eventually took a 17-14 lead.

After trading points, the Bullpups (0-1) went on a 5-0 run to take a 21-20 lead, but the Golden Bears closed the set on a 5-2 run.

“It just was a lot of our passing was off on serve receive,” Coelho said. “We changed the lineup a little bit, we have a lot of room to move and so we just kind of switched it up. We just didn’t play safe. You can’t play safe when you’re down you have to go after it.”

The second set was also competitive until a 6-0 run gave Sierra Pacific some breathing room with a 12-7 lead. Hanford managed to cut the lead to three (20-17), but failed to get any closer and trailed 2-0.

“We definitely need to communicate more and cover our spots more and just work together,” Hanford sophomore Druegan Davis said.

After winning the first two sets, Sierra Pacific seemed to be in prime position for a sweep when they started the third set 6-0 and on an 8-1 run. But Hanford chipped away at the deficit and came storming back with a 7-0 run led by Davis and Kylie Maya to take a 13-11 lead.

“I think everybody just worked together and came as a team,” Davis said about the third-set rally.

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The Golden Bears briefly regained the lead (15-14), but the Bullpups finished the set on an 11-4 run to win their only set of the match.

“I think this year the girls have a new attitude,” Hanford coach Lauren De La Cruz said after the match. “They’re vibing really well together, they’re working hard together and they’re just starting the season with a purpose.”

Coelho is the new head coach for Sierra Pacific and brings plenty of experience to the school. Katelin Casillas was the head coach last season and posted a 22-15 record (9-3 league record) with the Golden Bears in her only season, while guiding them to the CIF Central Section Division V semifinals.

Coelho was the former head coach for Hanford West for six seasons, according to MaxPreps, and returns to the game after taking a season off. Hanford West went 91-85 during Coelho’s tenure and made the playoffs in each of her last three seasons.

“It’s a nice change, great school, we have a cheering section which is phenomenal, so I really love the change of colors and as always it’s fun to beat Hanford,” Coelho said.

She takes over a team which made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, including an appearance in the Division V championship in 2017. The Golden Bears have been moved up to Division IV this season.

“We’re young we don’t have any seniors, but I think we’re better this year than we were last year, especially with our coaches,” Fagundes said.

Hanford on the other hand hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014 and has struggled the last four seasons compiling a 24-81 record during that span. Last season, the Bullpups were 6-21 overall and 1-9 in the WYL with their lone win coming against Lemoore in the season finale.

But De La Cruz believes the team has plenty of young talent to compete and said she liked seeing the team be aggressive and consistent — two things she thinks will help the team in league play.

“Usually we’re the underdog,” De La Cruz said. “People come in wanting to play us, but I just feel like this year we’re working hard and we have a lot of young talent that they’re being positive.”

Sierra Pacific has its next match today in the Caruthers Tournament, which runs through Saturday. Hanford will face Hanford West on the road next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

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Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or ngarcia@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

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