The562’s coverage of Long Beach Volleyball in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
The Wilson girls’ volleyball team has been up and down this season, so it was fitting that they opened the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs in the same way. Bruins coach Gerald Aquiningoc couldn’t help but chuckle that his team gave up 32 points in the first set in a loss, and just 34 points in the next three sets as they won it, 30-32, 25-9, 25-17, 25-9
“It was really just telling them to settle down, it was just a ton of nerves,” said Aquiningoc when asked about his message to his team. “They were anxious and they were playing too tight. My group is very young and sometimes they can psych themselves out. We’re working to breed the confidence and let them know, they can play with anyone, they can compete with anybody.”
The difference couldn’t have been more dramatic for the Bruins. In the first set, they went up 10-5 before ultimately giving up the lead 14-13 thanks to a host of hitting and service errors. The Bearcats were happy to take advantage of the Bruins miscues, and ended up coming back from down early to battling late in a close one.
Wilson had four set points but couldn’t close the door on Bonita, and ended up falling 32-30 in a thriller.
“I think at first we were a little nervous, for a lot of our players it’s their first playoff match,” said Wilson hitter Chloe Pravednikov. “In between sets we talked about it being like any other match, and if we were together, we’d be fine.”
“It was just a lot of nerves,” said Wilson hitter Allanah Smith. “We were saying it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the court, let’s play our game and have fun.”
There was plenty of fun for the Bruins in the rest of the match, as they won the second set 25-9, the third 25-17, and the fourth 25-9, including a 9-0 service run from setter Kieran Adams.
Adams and Camille Agrupis started feeding Pravednikov and Smith steadily, as the duo took two thirds of the Bruins’ swings in the match, and hit at an efficient clip. Pravednikov had 23 kills on .302 hitting and Smith had 22 on .289 hitting.
“Their job is simple, terminate the damn ball,” said Aquiningo. “Two feet to the ball and terminate. They did good tonight, it’s great for them to have a good night on the same night. They settled in.”
The duo are rare physical talents at the Division 3 level, boasting both height and vertical leaping ability, and the Bearcats’ best hope of stopping them for most of the night was hoping that they’d hit the ball long. The Bruins got strong contributions from across their lineup in the final three sets, though.
Kate Johnson had eight kills, libero Sydney Scott had 26 digs, (Pravednikov chipped in 21 digs and Smith added 19), and middle Emiya Green had five kills and four blocks.
Wilson will return to their home gym on Saturday for a second-round playoff match, hosting Serrano at 6 p.m. as they try to advance to next week’s quarterfinals.