Wilcox and Santa Clara varsity volleyball teams did not disappoint on Tuesday night, delivering a thrilling match. The stands were packed for this rivalry contest. Numerous Charger and Bruin athletes from other sports showed up to support their sides. In the end, it was the Chargers squeaking out the victory by the slimmest of margins, 15-13 in the decisive fifth set.
This volleyball duel felt more like an epic boxing match, with each side exchanging blows. Wilcox took the first set 25-15, but the Bruins countered with back-to-back close victories (25-22 and 25-21). That seemed to light a fire under the Chargers, who got big leads of 16-6 and 22-12 in the fourth set before winning 25-13. Santa Clara wasn’t done though, as they had one more counter punch to land. The Bruins opened up the fifth set with an impressive 7-4 lead, forcing Chargers Head Coach April Lujan to call a timeout. Santa Clara would build a 12-7 advantage, before the Chargers’ final stand saw them earn eight of the final nine points to win the match.
“I’m happy we were able to pull out the win, but we need to work on more stuff,” noted coach Lujan, who mentioned a flu bug had gone around the team. “We weren’t reacting fast to the ball. They didn’t give up though, I’m proud of that.”
One of the players who missed time with illness was outside hitter Isha Gokhale. The junior helped turn things around for the Chargers in the fourth set with a number of impressive kills with her powerful spike.
“She’s my main go-to teammate,” admitted sophomore setter Elise Corwin. “I always want to set her because she always gets it over.”
While the Chargers have been dealing with the flu, the Bruins have likewise are faced some serious adversity. They are without star junior Fiona Paul as she recovers from an ankle injury.
“I think it was really tough for her to watch,” remarked Bruins Head Coach Megan Morse-Quevedo. “She got injured three weeks ago and she’s supposed to be out for four weeks.”
Without one of their best players, the Bruins rallied as a team to play one of their better matches of the season. Even when the Chargers were getting things going, the Bruins always found a way to swing the momentum back in their favor. Two notable standouts were Ria Grewal and Bianca Blandford. The latter notched a number of kills, but more impressively saved some balls that looked impossible to keep alive.
“That’s just her wanting to get the ball over, instincts and desire,” chimed Morse-Quevedo. “She goes after everything.”
According to Blandford, the Bruins got things turned around in the second and third sets with increased energy and communication.
“We just talked a lot more and got our passes in better spots for our setters,” recalled the junior outside hitter. “Honestly, it was just energy. So much more energy.”
The rematch between these two rivals will take place in about three weeks on Oct. 17 at Santa Clara. If Tuesday was any indication, that one should be an extremely intriguing affair, particularly if both sides are back to full strength.