Playing host in the opening round of the CCS Division II playoff bracket as an 8 seed, the Wilcox Chargers did not want to experience the same disappointment that befell them in their league finale. The Chargers missed out on a share of a league title in their previous match when they let a 2-0 set lead slip away into a 3-2 loss. But instead of letting history repeat itself from the loss to Lynbrook, the Chargers dropped the metaphorical hammer on the No. 9 seeded Leigh Longhorns.
After winning the first two sets in close fashion, 25-22 and 26-24, Wilcox saved their best for last with a 25-14 third-set victory. Up 22-13, freshman libero Jessica Sitton served back-to-back aces to help snuff out any potential comeback attempt and shut the door.
In addition to Sitton’s serving prowess, sophomore Alexandria Montenegro served during a 9-0 run in the first set that began immediately after Head Coach April Lujan called a timeout with her squad trailing 13-8.
“Yes, it was all about my timeout call,” joked coach Lujan when asked if she was simply a coaching genius. “No, I could just tell they were nervous and so was Leigh. I called timeout just to tell them to calm down and play our game. I told them win or lose, I don’t care, I just want them to play for each other. Let’s just play and relax.”
“They are two of my best servers,” added coach Lujan on the performances from Montenegro and Sitton. “I told them where to serve, tried to have them target their least consistent passers and they hit their spots.”
“Lujan is very empowering, she knows what to say,” praised freshman middle blocker Clare Oudard on her coach. “She knows how to say the right stuff at the right time, she’s a really good coach.”
Even with that 9-0 run in the first set and strong finish to the third set, it was arguably what transpired in the second set that was the most impressive from a mental standpoint. Wilcox saw a 12-4 lead vanish as Leigh went on an 18-5 run, turning the score into a 22-17 deficit for the Chargers.
At that point Wilcox would score five-straight points to tie things back up at 22-22. After Leigh then went up 24-22, senior outside hitter Deena Pederson smashed a hard kill with the set on the line to make it 24-23. Oudard followed suit with a powerful kill of her own while facing set point. At 24-24, senior setter Elise Corwin teamed up for a block to take a one-point lead. On the next sequence a hit from Leigh would land harmlessly long and the Chargers would take the set 26-24.
“I think a lot of our winning that set had to do with the fact that we didn’t want what happened with Lynbrook to happen again” noted Corwin. “We just said we know we can do this, focus and dial in. We don’t want to feel like we did Tuesday night, so that’s where a lot of our energy stemmed from.”
The Chargers’ season would end with a semifinal loss to Christopher of Gilroy on Tuesday, Nov. 5.