It wasn’t easy, but the No. 21 state-ranked Porterville College volleyball team defeated Taft, 3-1, in a Central Valley Conference home opener that gave Pirates head coach Dale Henderson victory No. 100.
The Pirates (1-0, 6-3) – also ranked No. 9 in the North – jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Cougars (0-1, 4-10) battled to make it a tough contest.
Coach Dale Henderson, in his eighth season at Porterville, was happy his team escaped the mild upset with a 25-21, 25-19, 21-25, 29-27 win.
“This was an even match,” Henderson said. “Regardless of the records, Taft is always one of the best teams in the conference and they proved it tonight.”
Henderson had no idea that his personal milestone was approaching.
“When your first season goes 2-20, you don’t really think of coaching records,” Henderson said, referring to inheriting a struggling program in 2007 before rebuilding it into a perennial CVC contender (37-6 over the last three-plus seasons).
“I was surprised and happy it came in front of a great home crowd. We love our local community support. I hope this is a special season for us.”
Hoover product Meranda Watkins, playing multiple positions, led the Pirates with 21 kills, 22 assists, and 16 digs. Her hitting percentage was .528 – as she continues her ranking among the state’s Top 10. Watkins was 7-for-11 in a wild final game, when both teams had opportunities serving for game point.
Her former Hoover teammate, freshman Deja Manning, added 15 digs.
The Pirates also had contributions from Melissa Vernon (16 kills), Kendyl Estes (11 kills, 14 digs), Andrea Alejandre (10 digs) and Brenda Acosta (9 assists).
Taft statistics were unavailable.
Porterville will play in the prestigious Los Angeles Pierce College tournament this weekend, facing the top teams from Southern California. The Pirates resume CVC play next Wednesday at home against West Hills Coalinga.