Ventura College women's basketball coach Ned Mircetic returned to practice Thursday after a week's absence due to illness.
Despite Mircetic's absence, the Pirates extended their winning streak to nine games with wins over Hancock Saturday and Cuesta Wednesday.
"I'm proud of the fact that we've faced adversity and we were able to do what we needed to do," said Hester. "I can't say that we've played great, but when the time came, we were able to make the plays that we needed to make to win the game.
Cuesta pulled within 57-54 with 1:04 to play Wednesday, but the Pirates survived behind a pair of clutch steals and free throws by Rebecca Griffin and a key assist by Regan Mew.
"It doesn't matter who the head coach is," said Hester. "Ultimately, it's the players on the floor that win the game."
The games were just the second and third games Mircetic has missed since his first job at Oxnard College in 1982.