Monday night’s third set between the Wilcox Chargers and Monta Vista Matadors was unbelievably exhilarating. You would have to be dead inside not to have been thoroughly entertained by the atmosphere of the must-win set, a set won via the slimmest of margins, 26-24.
Wilcox would enter the third set after dropping the first two by scores of 25-14 and 25-15. All of a sudden though the Chargers looked like a different team. A hard-spike kill by sophomore Deena Pederson, a block by senior Megan Remington and change-up-style kill from senior Alexandra Stock opened up an early 3-0 lead. Wilcox would maintain a two or three-point lead until Monta Vista tied things up at 12-12. From that point on the two teams swapped the lead back and forth with neither side going up by more than two.
“I told them just to go out and have fun,” commented Wilcox Head Coach April Lujan about her message between the second and third sets. “They are an A-level team and we are a B-level team. They have a lot of club experience, we have little to none. I just said have fun, use your fundamentals, what we work on in practice.”
All night long Wilcox had support in the crowd from a handful of energetic alumni. The former volleyball players were cheering throughout the contest, but became incredibly loud as the third set came down to the wire. They were hanging on almost every point, screaming and even falling to the floor when two rather lengthy rallies ended with the score 23-22 and 24-24.
“I knew the alumni were coming back and everyone was like, ‘we gotta do good for them!’” chuckled Pederson. “They were seniors last year and we wanted to make them proud.”
Despite being a sophomore, Pederson never came off the floor for the Chargers, showing tremendous fitness and athleticism.
“She never played volleyball until last year,” remarked coach Lujan. “She’s a super-stud athlete though. I just got to work on her control, she’s a softball player. You have to watch her arm swing with the softball-type motion. Once she does make the correction in her swing, she’s going to get kills and kills and kills.”
Pederson and junior Isha Gokhale were the two biggest standouts for the Chargers, coming up with digs and kills. The squad as a whole seemed to take their own advice about coming together as a cohesive group going into that third set.
“We finally clicked, everyone started talking and working together,” noted Pederson. “I think we just raised the intensity, we were pushing ourselves and each other to be better.”
Finding that chemistry this year will be a new challenge for the squad, as Wilcox lost six seniors to graduation a year ago.
“It’s going to be a tough transition,” admitted coach Lujan on younger players having to step into leadership roles. “But just from Friday’s match to today’s match, we watched film for two hours Saturday and they saw their timidness and they didn’t like it. I think the visual brought them together and they were like ‘oh we aren’t playing as a team, we need to play as a more cohesive group’ so that’s helpful.”
Wilcox plays again on Thursday, Aug. 31 against Oak Grove.