The Wilcox varsity volleyball squad may have come up short in its CCS semifinal matchup against top-seeded Branham on Thursday, but the underdog Chargers showed they can bump, set and spike with anybody.
Branham advanced past the Chargers in straight sets, 29-27, 25-16, 25-23, but Wilcox arguably should have won both the first and third sets. Wilcox held an opening-set lead of 19-13 and a third-set advantage of 21-16. While losing the two leads was certainly frustrating, the team’s main takeaway was that the players can compete with the top teams in CCS.
“We were ranked pretty low within the CCS, we weren’t expected to come this far,” remarked senior middle hitter Clare Oudard. “To compete that highly and get those leads, we put the first banner up for Wilcox girls volleyball and then went the furthest we ever have in CCS.”
“We worked really hard getting back in the gym before the season to get our conditioning back up after the pandemic,” noted senior defensive specialist Jessica Sitton on the start of the season. “It was so much fun and good to end the season in CCS. I started my freshman year in CCS, tonight was a super fun game, can’t complain.”
What the players certainly can’t complain about is something they did not know immediately after Thursday’s game: it turns out their season isn’t actually over. With their overall performance this season, Wilcox managed to qualify as an at-large bid for the NorCal tournament.
According to Wilcox Head Coach April Lujan, it is the first time ever that a team from the SCVAL (Santa Clara Valley Athletic League)’s El Camino division has qualified for the state tournament.
On Tuesday, Wilcox (No. 9 seed) took on the Harbor Pirates (No. 8 seed) out of Santa Cruz in the first round of the CIF NorCal State tournament.
In similar fashion to Thursday’s match with Branham, Willcox hung in the match with a tenacious fight until the very end. The Chargers actually took the first set 25-18 but found themselves down two sets to one heading into the fourth.
The fourth and final set would go down to the wire, with Santa Cruz winning by the slimmest of margins at 26-24. The tough-luck loss for the Chargers brings to an end the most successful girls volleyball season in Wilcox High School history.
Putting forth such a memorable season took a team-wide effort. Whilst Oudard and fellow senior Sophie Ehret dominated the headlines as hitters, Sitton was the defensive dynamo in the back row, with several others playing key roles.
Junior setter Mia Perez Smith had excellent ball placement time and time again, with Bianca Burke, Perla Hernandez and Weronika Pabis providing secondary offense from the front row. Dari Ramirez and Neda Salehi served stellar aces from behind the line to add to the Chargers’ scoring depth. Rounding out the roster were Claire Sugrue who provided a left-handed opposite hitter element, Vina Nguyen, Darnelle Arriesgado, Natalie Siaw, Kelsey Mock and Isabella Gaba.