The statistics signifying Bakersfield Christian’s sheer dominance on the volleyball court is nothing short of staggering.

Seventy straight wins in the South Sequoia League; a No. 1 seed in the Division II Central Section playoffs; and of course the big picture — four straight Central Section championships (one in Division IV, and the last three in D-III).

Under any metric, those numbers are astounding, and must be recognized as such.

“It’s​ ​just​ ​a​ ​great​ ​school​ ​that​ ​attracts​ ​good​ ​athletes​ ​and good​ ​kids​ ​overall.​ ​That​ ​helps​ ​out​ ​quite​ ​a​ ​bit,” said BCHS head coach Matt Touchstone, in his second year in charge of the program.​ “​I​ ​think,​ ​honestly,​ ​what’s​ ​helped​ ​establish​ ​that​ ​kind​ ​of stuff is it​ being​ ​a​ ​good​ ​school​ ​for​ ​kids​ ​to​ ​go​ ​to. And​ ​I​ ​think​ ​the​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​the​ ​kids​ ​helps​ ​out​ ​a​ ​ton.”

Senior outside hitter Sarah Wilkins said following in the footsteps of winning players and teams has helped build — and sustain — a legacy at BCHS.

“We​ ​inherited​ ​being​ ​with​ ​the​ ​older​ ​girls​ ​and​ ​how​ ​they’ve​ ​done​ ​stuff​ ​before,” Wilkins said.​ “​That​ ​really​ ​helped​ ​us​ ​how we​ ​managed​ ​to​ ​get​ ​things​ ​done,​ ​and​ ​we​ ​want​ ​to​ ​uphold​ ​the​ ​school’s​ ​reputation​ ​of​ ​having​ ​a​ ​good volleyball​ ​team.”

Said junior setter Catherine Balfanz: “Even this year, there’s still a lot of pressure to keep up the run of wins. The league championship titles.”

By the same token, such dominance could be considered a blessing and a curse simultaneously. Seldom have the Eagles been challenged during their winning run. Of course, one could make that inference by simply looking at the 70 straight league victories.

Next year the Eagles expect to be pushed more locally, when they move from the SSL to the South Yosemite League.

“​It’s​ ​hard​ ​—​ ​especially​ ​going​ ​into​ ​playoffs​ ​—​ ​with coming​ ​out​ ​from​ ​playing​ ​teams​ ​that​ ​we​ ​just​ ​dominate​ ​over,” Wilkins said.​ “​That’s​ ​a​ ​definite​ ​challenge​ ​that​ ​we​ ​have​ ​to face.”

Said Touchstone: “Typically, our school has dominated that league so much, that trying to keep them focused is more of a problem than the level of play.”

Touchstone said during the league winning streak, the team doesn’t focus on simply winning matches, but how they’re doing it. Goals are set that don’t pertain to the final score — requirements for hitting percentage, passing percentage, or a baseline number for service errors are put in place. Eliminate the final outcome — which is typically a 3-0 victory — and focus on the game within the game.

“We wanted to maintain a level of play versus anything else. All the goals we tried to give was geared toward that,” Touchstone said. “Maintaining a good mindset of, we need play a certain standard no matter who we play against.”

And what are the consequences if such benchmarks aren’t hit?

“We run,” quickly countered senior setter Lillie Graham, to a chorus of laughter from teammates during an interview session last week.

Even during section playoffs last year, the Eagles rolled to the championship: The team dispatched Reedley, Hanford West and Tulare-Mission Oak by combined set scores of 9-1. They would go on to win their opening state playoff match against Santa Ynez (3-1 score) before falling to Mission Hills-Alemany (3-1) in the CIF Southern California D-III quarterfinals. 

The scenario sets up a unique set of circumstances for BCHS. For virtually any program in the area, a league championship, section title, and state playoff win would be a wildly successful season. Some amongst the Eagles, however, feel as if their accomplishments can get slighted.

“Even if we won section championships, everyone’s always been like ‘Well, it’s D-III. It’s D-IV. You guys are winning in a low division,’” Wilkins said. “But we’ve also proved in preseason that we can beat the D-I high schools that don’t really want to play us.”

The Eagles try to schedule up early in their season. This year — in tournament play — BCHS split two matches with Liberty and lost to Fresno-Central. The team also split two matches against Garces. Those teams accounted for three of the top four seed in the section D-I bracket. 

In late October, the Eagles also played a high-caliber tournament in Redondo, where they lost to Thousand Oaks, L.A.-Notre Dame Academy and Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon before winning first place in the bronze division.

With that, BCHS was happy it took the court, in part because it was a tuneup for the postseason and in part because it came against cream-of-the-crop competition.

“Even though we lost….That’s OK. Because I feel like for all of us, playing good teams makes us better,” Balfanz said. “We don’t shut down, or look at a good team and say ‘Oh, we’re just going to roll over and die.’...We actually put up a fight, and we try our best. I think that pumps all of us up in a way.”

Will it equate to another Central Section title in 2017? The Eagles did move up to D-II this year, and the team is expecting a tougher road to the championship. The program also underwent a significant makeover of its own this past offseason, with the losses of standout front-line players Bella Bouma, Demi Owens and Gigi Wilkins.

“It’s not the same team as last year. We’re not as big. I do think we’re a solid team,” Balfanz said. “Valley is going to be a little harder this year. We’re working really hard on that.”

Central Section volleyball tournaments

The action continues Tuesday with the quarterfinals round. All matches begin at 6:30 p.m. unless noted. A look at the matchups:

Division I

No. 8 Clovis North at No. 1 Fresno-Central

No. 5 Clovis West at No. 4 Garces

No. 6 Centennial at No. 3 Liberty

No. 7 Clovis East at No. 2 Clovis-Buchanan

Division II

No. 8 Lemoore at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian

No. 5 Tehachapi at No. 4 Madera, 6 

No. 6 Visalia-Golden West at No. 3 Visalia-Redwood

No. 7 Porterville-Monache at No. 2 Exeter

Division III

No. 9 Woodlake at No. 1 Oakhurst-Yosemite

No. 5 Tolhouse-Sierra at No. 4 Hanford West

No. 6 Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial at No. 3 O'Neals-Minarets

No. 7 Reedley at No. 2 Tulare-Mission Oak

Division IV

No. 8 Strathmore at No. 1 Kingsburg

No. 5 Reedley-Immanuel at No. 4 Chowchilla

No. 6 Dos Palos at No. 3 Taft

No. 7 Porterville at No. 2 Liberty-Madera Ranchos 

Division V

No. 8 Washington Union at No. 1 California City

No. 5 Selma at No. 4 Fresno Christian

No. 6 Wasco at No. 3 Sierra Pacific

No. 10 Delano at No. 2 Lemoore-Kings Christian

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