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.
Saturday’s second round match between Serrano and Wilson was moved up to a 3 p.m. start, allowing the visiting Diamondbacks time to make the 90-minute drive back to campus and prepare for a school dance later on in the night.
As it turned out, it was the host Bruins who wasted little time in ending the proceedings, looking sharper than they did two nights ago in a comfortable 25-18, 25-18, 25-22 victory. It’s the first time anyone has beaten Serrano this season, and it sends Wilson to next week’s CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinal round.
“After that first round, we did a lot of talking as a team. This year has had its ups and downs, but right now, we’re playing for each other–now they’re a unit,” said second-year Wilson head coach Gerald Aquiningoc. “You could see it in this match, we want to win, and we want to play for each other. At this point, the training is already there. Now it’s just about playing for each other and wanting to extend the season as far as it can go. Having fun, and enjoying the journey.”
The Bruins avoided the early lull which caused them to drop Thursday’s opening round against Bonita. This time, led by eight first-set kills from senior Allanah Smith (who finished with a match-high 19), the home team got off to a solid start and never relented. According to Smith, that all started a couple hours before the match.
“We get here two hours before the match to set up, and we used that entire time meditating, communicating, and when we did our drills we were intently focusing,” Smith explained. “We didn’t want to start off outplayed. There were a lot of people saying ‘Oh, it was slow’ and we didn’t want to hear that. We wanted to make sure that people remember our name and we wanted to show them we could sweep. And that’s what we did.”
Smith had consecutive aces in the first game, then delivered a back row kill to make it 18-12 Wilson and force a Serrano timeout. The Bruins cruised from that point on for a 25-18 win in set one.
Wilson won by the same margin in set two, getting a 6-0 run early to lead 11-8. Once Serrano crawled back into the set, trailing just 13-12, senior libero Sydney Scott served an 8-0 Wilson run that made it 21-12 and put the game out of reach. Junior OH Chloe Pravednikov had seven of her 12 kills in the second set to key the win, while opposite Grace Domingo chipped in three kills in that set as well.
In the third, Serrano refused to go down without a fight, forcing Wilson to run through the finish line. Ultimately, a rash of late errors by the Diamondbacks killed their comeback attempts as the home team held on for the 25-22 win and the sweep.
Kate Vanderwol had a team-high four blocks for the Bruins and Smith led with 11 digs.
Aquiningoc praised the confidence of his team, especially his top two hitters–Pravednikov and Smith–who have felt the pressure to produce this season, but have proven to be more than capable. The Bruins have got the talent to play with anyone in this division, but there’s a lot more that goes into winning than just having talent. It seems the Bruins are executing on those other phases of the game, playing well as a team, and putting together some of their best volleyball of the year.
“This has been a long season for us, and to see everything clicking now, is what I was waiting for,” Aquiningoc said. “I was like, ‘Man, when is it going to click?’ And it's kind of clicking now. It started to click on Thursday in sets two, three, and four, and from the get today it was clicking. And when we got tested, they stayed together. And that's what it was.”
Wilson will look to stay together for at least another week as they continue their season next Wednesday night. The Bruins will travel to Huntington Beach to take on No. 4 seed Edison in the quarterfinals.