Between both non-conference and league games, the Wilcox volleyball squad competed in 32 matches during the regular season—they lost just two of them.
Their 30-2 overall record and El Camino league title (13-1) earned the Chargers a No. 4 seed in an eight-team Division 1 CCS playoff tournament. In the quarterfinal against No. 5 Homestead, the Chargers dropped the first two sets 25-21 and 25-18 before storming all the way back. Wilcox would win the next three sets 25-19, 25-20 and 15-7.
The victory over Homestead earned Wilcox a tough semifinal date with No. 1 seed Monta Vista. The Matadors were likewise almost unbeatable this season. Monta Vista went 32-4 leading up to the playoffs. Not to mention, MaxPreps has them ranked No. 5 in California and No. 7 in the country. Wilcox meanwhile ranked 71st in California and 126 in the country.
It was quite literally a tall task for the Chargers to take on Monta Vista as the Matadors held a significant height advantage. One of the Matadors’ primary outside hitters was well over six-feet-tall. The Chargers meanwhile played all season without a single player taller than six feet.
Of course volleyball isn’t just about height. Athleticism, communication and on-court awareness are all vital to winning in volleyball. And this time around, the Chargers’ couldn’t must up an answer for the Matadors’ attack, dropping the match in three straight sets 25-13, 25-16 and 25-20. While Wilcox didn’t win a single set, Head Coach Bill Pignanello believes they should have made it a closer match.
“We didn’t play up to our capabilities because if we had played up to our capabilities we would have taken at least one set from this team,” remarked Pignanello. “That said, we knew this was going to be a tough matchup against the No. 1 seed and overall I’m still very happy with our performance. These boys had a great season. They are a great bunch of guys too. Out of the various teams that I have taken to CCS, this was probably the most enjoyable team I have ever coached so I’m very happy with them.”
When asked about his five graduating seniors (who were all captains) who obviously won’t be back next season, Pignanello responded with a pretend sad voice and subsequent chuckle: “I’m gonna miss them.”
The five seniors Rafael Tolosa, Aaron Davey, Hoon Cho, Jo Gee and Michael Crouch all played key roles on the court in addition to their leadership roles as captains. In the final game against Monta Vista it was Davey who stood out offensively and Cho defensively playing the libero position. Cho took a hard spike off his chest early in the second set, but nonetheless kept the play alive for his teammates to keep the rally going.
“I’ve taken hard hits like that before, gotten hit in the face too,” chuckled Cho on the not-so-typical carom off his chest. “You kind of get used to it though, it makes you feel hyped and gets you into the game.”
“I’m hoping we can finagle our league to making an MVP for the libero position, because he is definitely it,” chimed coach Pignanello on Cho. “The guy is our total spark plug.”
As for the hitters, Davey had a handful of kills against the Matadors, the most impressive of which was a clean hard kill, the cleanest kill any Wilcox player had all match long as it smacked the gym floor untouched. That kill also brought the Chargers to within 19-14 in the second set.
Despite the season ending in a loss, Davey was extremely proud of his team’s effort this season.
“Our win against Homestead in the first round was the first time Wilcox volleyball has ever won a CCS playoff game,” noted the senior outside hitter. “So [despite this loss] we are really proud of ourselves for the season we had.”