The Wilcox Chargers varsity volleyball squad put up a valiant fight against the Lynbrook Vikings on Monday night. While Lynbrook would take the match in straight sets, 25-17, 25-18, 25-16, the Chargers had opportunities in each of the first two sets to seize momentum, but just didn’t quite have enough firepower.
Perhaps had Wilcox been at full strength, the match could have been flipped in their direction. Unfortunately, one of their two captains, Neda Salehi, was out with an illness and her presence was missed.
With neither Wilcox nor Lynbrook featuring particularly dominant offense, the match was mostly dictated by who could serve and play the cleanest defense. That side of the ball is where Wilcox missed Salehi the most, as the senior has long been a key libero and defensive specialist for the Chargers.
“She’s one of our primary back row and front row players, so we tried to work with what we had,” chimed fellow captain in setter Mia Perez-Smith. “It was definitely a bit of a challenge. Definitely would have been different had we had her in this game.”
“She’s a great team player. She always lifts up the team when we are feeling down,” added sophomore setter and opposite hitter Kelsy Mock on feeling the absence of Salehi. “Her energy and presence on the court just makes us play at another level.”
“Oh, absolutely, yes,” responded Wilcox Head Coach April Lujan on whether the match would have gone differently had Salehi been healthy. “And then Hanako [Stone] would have been more comfortable in her middle position, but I was asking her to do more on the outside. If I would have had my two middles that I’ve had all year and then Neda, and Neda is amazing on defense. It hurt us not having her, for sure it would have been a different type of game.”
While the type of game would have been different, the overall grittiness of the team remained the same. As noted before the season, the Wilcox volleyball program has a scrappy attitude and incredible work ethic year in and year out.
Despite losing double digit seniors from last year’s squad, the team came into Tuesday’s match with an overall record of 8-9 and league record of 3-3. Against the Vikings, the Chargers could have easily folded in the first set after trailing big at 21-7. The players could have just mailed it in, but instead Wilcox pulled back within six at 23-17.
The 10-2 run was fueled by quality service runs from senior Bianca Burke and junior Kaitlyn Le, as well as hitting from both Stone and Mock.
The Chargers then continued that momentum from the end of the first set into the second set. Quality serving from Perez-Smith at the very start of the set and from freshman Sienna Spencer midway through the set, helped build Wilcox a 13-9 advantage.
Unfortunately for Chargers fans, the Lynbrook Vikings then took over the match, finishing off a second set win with 16 of the final 21 points.
Wilcox will look to bounce back on Wednesday, Oct. 4 against rival Santa Clara before playing in a tournament over the weekend.