April 24’s loss in straight sets (25-20, 25-21, 25-20) against the Gunn Titans can be described as a minor setback for the Wilcox Chargers. The loss was just their second league loss of the season. Wilcox still owns a solid 9-2 record and will have a chance to win the El Camino league. Barring unforeseen losses in the next two matches against Santa Clara and Sacred Heart, the league title will come down to a league finale rematch with 9-1 Palo Alto.
“We have three more games left and our biggest one is Palo Alto, that will be their senior night,” remarked first-year Chargers Head Coach Christina Watkins. “That will be a good test, their only loss is against us.”
Watkins takes over a program this season that has had two incredibly strong seasons in a row under the previous regime. Last year’s Head Coach Bill Pignanello oversaw the team finish 31-3 overall and 13-1 in league. The 2018 team was led by mostly seniors, causing a large amount of turnover this season.
Yet despite losing senior starters Hoon Cho, Aaron Davey, Michael Crouch and Jo Gee to graduation last year, the 2019 team has managed to maintain a masterful level of play. With a new coach, new players and a target on their back from last year’s success, the Chargers would have had every excuse in the book for a disappointing season. But senior captains John Choe and Joe Pham have helped usher in a new group of strong players this season. Junior setter Stephen Phan is also a captain.
“This year is a completely new lineup, last year most of our team was seniors,” remarked Choe after the loss to Gunn. “This year is a bunch of new players, but it’s going good so far.”
One of the key new players in the starting lineup for the Chargers is six-foot, four-inch Samuel Wheaton, who helps provide a net-front presence that the team didn’t have last year. Wheaton played on JV last year as a sophomore.
“Sam is definitely a go getter, he’s very aggressive at the net. He’s one of our key players in trying to stop opponents’ big hitters and kill their momentum,” remarked coach Watkins. “He’s pretty consistent in that front row and being a lefty is a nice advantage too.”
Despite not playing on varsity last year, Wheaton acknowledges that the team needs to work on keeping the energy level up to match the intensity of their opponents.
“We gotta work on keeping our motivation and energy up,” admitted the junior. “All these teams have a mark on their calendar when they are playing us. We gotta bring the same energy that they are bringing to us every game.”
Along with Wheaton, fellow junior Tyler Rowland is also one of the key new starters for the Chargers this year. Against Gunn, the pair of 2020 guys were the standouts for Wilcox.
Next up for Wilcox will be the league season finale with Palo Alto. The two schools will play for the league title on Friday, May 3.