After a frustrating season that was both played late and cut significantly short last school year, Wilcox Volleyball looks to have bounced back in a big way.
Last year’s COVID-shortened season saw the Volleyball team play in just six matches. Compare that number to the previous season in which they played 37, and one realizes just how little of a season they were able to play. Wilcox Head Coach April Lujan had to deal with low turnout numbers, not only due to COVID-19, but because the season was pushed back so late, it ended up going head to head with the club volleyball season.
This year, though, the volleyball program looks much healthier heading into the new season. There are 14 players on the varsity roster, 16 on junior varsity and the no-cut freshman team has a whopping 22. While varsity features just three seniors, all three, Allie Montenegro, Sage Stephenson, and Mana Rogers were voted team captains by their peer teammates. With seven juniors on the squad, it actually looks like a relatively experienced group on paper. The juniors however, all last played a full high school season as freshmen.
“What’s tough is some of these girls missed a whole season basically,” noted Coach Lujan. “I have girls that I’m trying to quickly get them up to varsity level, when they have only played their freshman year.”
While the volume of players has bounced back, one of the biggest stars of the program graduated this past spring. Star outside hitter, and 6-plus footer Amanda McDowell had her attempt at four years of varsity competition for three sports cut short due to the pandemic. She would have been a four-year varsity player for volleyball, basketball and softball. Without McDowell, the Chargers will have a shorter team than they’ve had in recent seasons.
“We don’t have a lot of height, so we’re focusing a lot on defense and ball control,” remarked Lujan on the team’s preseason practices. “This way, when we compete, we know where the ball is going.”
A defense-first mentality makes sense for the Chargers too given that two of their three senior captains are listed as defensive specialists, among their multiple positions. Montenegro is listed as a defensive specialist, libero and outside hitter, while Rogers is listed as an opposite hitter and defensive specialist.
“I think the unspoken goal for everyone is to make CCS and to try and win league” said Montenegro on the squad’s expectations for the season. “It will have to be a match by match approach, though. We’re going to have to take it day by day, practice by practice in order to achieve our goals.”
The Chargers’ preseason schedule will be fast and furious, facing off against top tier competition.
“We have a very tough preseason, we are playing high level teams,” acknowledged Coach Lujan. “Other coaches reached out to me, and I told them that ‘hey I’m all up for it, I love playing higher level teams,’ but I wanted to let them know that I’m rebuilding and that my girls will play hard, but I don’t have the experience that I had a couple years ago.”
Wilcox will play eight non-league preseason matches starting Aug. 26 before opening league on Sept. 9 against Cupertino.