Central Valley's and Los Banos' varsity volleyball teams compiled identical 9-3 records while tying for second place during the Western Athletic Conference regular season.
The Hawks and Tigers played a tiebreaker game on Nov. 3 to determine the WAC's No. 2 and 3 seeds for Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Central Valley overcame a sluggish start on its way to posting a 3-1 (17-25, 25-11, 25-18, 25-16) victory over visiting Los Banos in front of a large crowd.
"There was pressure," Hawks sophomore standout Mariana Garibay said. "Second place was at stake. I knew we were going to win. We were fired up. It feels great because no one likes losing. We just really wanted to make history again."
Central Valley improved to 15-3 overall and compiled a 10-3 record on its way to a runner-up finish in the WAC standings.
El Capitan (12-0) and Los Banos (9-4) took first and third, respectively.
Los Banos won the previous four conference titles.
The Hawks secured their second straight playoff berth.
"I'm happy," Central Valley head coach Kelly Heese said. "If you put the time and dedication into something, the results will come."
The Hawks relied heavily on Garibay and senior star Julia Ramsey during last week's showdown with Los Banos.
Ramsey and Garibay were both dominant at the net.
"This is one of my better matches," Mariana said. "I started swinging more."
Garibay has developed into one of the Hawks' top players.
She competed at the junior-varsity level her freshman year.
"Varsity is a whole different environment," Garibay said. "The game is so much faster. The hitting is so much harder."
Mariana played for the Lady Sharks' 17-and-under club team during the offseason.
"Mentally, she's become more confident," Heese said. "Her athleticism has improved. She's good at everything. My goal for her is to be Julia's replacement."
Central Valley never trailed in building 4-0 leads in the second, third and fourth games against Los Banos this past week.
The Hawks responded after dropping the first game, 17-25.
Heese challenged her players.
"We kept the momentum and intensity going," she said. "We played point for point. We had harmony on the court. It takes all of us to win and all of us to lose. The first game made me really nervous. We were playing scared."
"We're solid all the way around," Garibay added. "We have great players."
Central Valley compiled a 2-1 record versus four-time defending WAC-champion Los Banos this season.
The Hawks won the last two meetings.
Central Valley swept host Los Banos, 25-8, 26-24, 25-23, on Oct. 29.
The Hawks avenged a 16-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-12, 15-12 loss sustained on Oct. 6 in Ceres.
Central Valley's varsity volleyball program has ascended to new heights under third-year leader Hesse.
"She really motivates us to try our best," Garibay said.
The Hawks accomplished several firsts in 2014 when they qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and compiled a winning record.
Central Valley finished in third place in the WAC standings (8-5).
The Hawks were fourth in conference play (5-7) and just missed advancing to the postseason during Heese's first year as head coach.
"These girls have made huge improvements," Heese said. "It doesn't surprise me. The rapport they have on the court is phenomenal. They make my job easier. We're not done yet."