Volleyball Wilson

Girls’ Volleyball Preview: Wilson Bruins

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

The plan is business as usual for the Wilson Bruins this season. Even with an offseason coaching change that saw previous head coach Gerald Aquiningoc take the head job at rival Long Beach Poly, the Bruins remain in capable hands with boys’ volleyball head coach Chris Ceballos taking the reins of the girls’ program.

Wilson has an exciting senior core, comprised of new and returning talent, which should put the Bruins in contention for a Moore League title–and perhaps even more–in the 2023 season.

“The team is starting off in a good spot,” said Ceballos. “I feel like we were able to pick up in a more advanced place because Gerald was there last year, and we do a lot of the same stuff. The focus on serving and passing has been one of our key things whenever we take over a program, and because he did such a good job, I’m just able to take over and add on to it.”

The returning talent will certainly help, led by 6-foot-2 senior Chloe Pravednikov. The Pepperdine commit is an imposing weapon at the net and a great leader for the group, and she’s gotten off to a terrific start to her senior season. Her teammate in beach volleyball, Kate Eckenrode, is also back for her senior year and will be the starting libero for the Bruins. Pravednikov and Eckenrode won the Moore League pairs championship in beach and are looking to lead their team to a title indoors as well.

Kate VanderWal is another returner who got a ton of experience last season. She’ll be used as a versatile hitter, playing all three spots across the net as needed. Setting is always key, and the Bruins have not one, but two returners in that spot to help orchestrate the offense. The added experience for junior Kierin Adams and senior Camille Agrupis could be a huge boost to the team, according to Ceballos.

“Last year it was both of their first times as a setter at the varsity level,” Ceballos explained. “And they’re just one year older, with one more year of experience under their belt. I know Camille got full-time reps as a setter during club season, so she looks a lot better, more comfortable, and her decision making has gotten better. Both of them are looking really good.”

In addition to that veteran core, the Bruins have an impact transfer ready to enter the chat just in time for key Moore League matchups. After a 30-day sit out period, 6-foot-3 senior Babi Gubbins will slot right into the Wilson lineup and become one of the league’s top players. Gubbins has spent the last three seasons on varsity at Mater Dei High School, and is committed to play beach volleyball at Stanford next year.

“I think she’s automatically one of the best players in the league right now,” said Ceballos of Gubbins. “She’s 6-3 with a big arm and can swing, but I think the best part of her game is ball control. I feel like our team is really good at serving and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her shank a ball. She’s impressive.”

Also new to the program is freshman Simrin Adams, Kieren’s younger sister. She’s already started at outside hitter for the Bruins, and has a terrific arm for a ninth grader. Ceballos said she could be a real difference-maker this season and into the future at Wilson.

Ceballos believes Wilson’s success starts when every point starts. He’s confident in their service game, and their ability to receive serve and remain in system. It may take some time to figure out the ideal rotations and create chemistry with the new coaching staff, but Wilson’s top-end talent and experience makes them a dangerous team during league play and into the CIF playoffs.

The Bruins have already had positive results so far, placing third in the gold division of the Lakewood/Molten Classic over the weekend. Wilson went toe-to-toe with top programs like Los Alamitos and Redondo Union–even without three starters available–and defeated the host Lancers in four sets to claim the third-place trophy.

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Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.