Volleyball Wilson

CIF Girls’ Volleyball: Wilson Survives Quarterfinal At Newport Harbor

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

Sometimes you have to dance with the girls who brought you.

That’s the decision Wilson coach Chris Ceballos made before the fifth set of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 girls’ volleyball quarterfinal at Newport Harbor on Wednesday night.

“We have to ride our big guns in big time moments,” he said. “If this is going to be (Chloe Pravednikov and Babi Gubbins’) last game you have to give them the opportunity to have an impact on it.”

Wilson seniors Pravednikov and Gubbins took over the match in the tie-breaking fifth set to help send the Bruins to the semifinals on Saturday 25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 24-26, 15-8. Wilson will face JSerra in its first semifinal appearance since 2005.

Gubbins finished with a team-high 26 kills, 17 digs and three service aces. Pravednikov had 24 kills, 14 digs and two service aces.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking, but you have to realize that as a senior you’ve got no other options,” Gubbins said of getting fed in the fifth set. “You have to lock in, just do it, own it and show the younger girls how it’s done.”

“It feels great,” Pravednikov added. “We could tell the underclassmen were a little nervous as we were walking into (the Newport Harbor gym) and (the home crowd) was super loud, but we said to just play our game and not worry about things around us.”

The huge home crowd just kept getting louder as the Sailors made a comeback, and the student section even started chanting Pravednikov and Gubbins’ names during key points.

“You really can’t (ignore all of the noise) especially when they’re chanting your name, it’s actually kind of crazy,” Gubbins said. “You just have to keep on thinking one word to yourself until the play is over, because if you’re not you’re listening to everything else. I say ‘focus, focus, focus’ so that minimizes me hearing them chant my name and stuff like that.”

Ceballos said he knew his two towering outside hitters would get the job done in the fifth set.

“It helps that they’re 6’3” but they also pass the ball well, hit well and they’re overall good leaders who keep things calm,” he said of Pravednikov and Gubbins. “They never get rattled. This is a tough game going into set five, and they walked in like they’ve been here before. Their seasoned experience is why we do so well.”

Wilson libero Kate Eckenrode also had a great game with 14 digs and three aces. Bruins setter Camille Agrupis finished with 17 digs, and Danielle Dobie came off the bench to put all of her 24 serves in while delivering a key ace late in the fifth set.

Newport Harbor relied heavily on freshman Ella Olson who put down a match-high 32 kills, but she only had two kills in the decisive fifth set.

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The Sailors started the match well with an 8-3 lead in the first set. Wilson came charging back as Dobie served up a 5-0 run that broke an 18-18 tie and gave the Bruins breathing room down the stretch on its way to a 25-22 win.

Wilson kept its foot on the gas in the second set. A big block from Simrin Adams and Emiya Green gave the visitors all the momentum, and a lead. Gubbins and Pravednikov took it from there for a dominant 25-19 win.

Newport Harbor bounced back to take a big lead in the second set. The Sailors were up by as many as 10 points in the set on their way to a 25-21 win to avoid the sweep.

“They’re a tough team, they won in five sets the last two rounds, so you have to expect them to come back and fight, especially in front of a good home crowd,” Ceballos said. “So the energy was there and we just didn’t match it (in the third and fourth set). We knew we could come back.”

The two teams battled in the fourth set, but a controversial call that didn’t go Wilson’s way gave Newport Harbor a 14-12 lead. Gubbins responded with four consecutive kills to tie it 18-18 again.

However, Olsen responded with five kills and a block in the last eight points to push her team to a 26-24 set win and push the match to a fifth set.

“In the third and fourth set we tried to move the ball around and we just weren’t getting points that way,” Ceballos said. “It’s knowing who we are, regardless of the score, we’re still a good team. We just have to remember that, stay in the moment and be present. I just kept repeating that throughout the game.”

“We knew our seniors had to lead the way,” Pravednikov added. “We had to play as a team in the last set and it really showed.”

Newport Harbor jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the fifth, but after a timeout Pravednikov put down three kills in a five-point stretch to put per team back up. The Bruins proceeded to go on a 12-2 run that took the set and the match 15-8. Once again, Dobie was back there to serve up the winning run, and Green came up with a pair of blocks late that finally quieted the raucous home crowd.

“It feels great because they’d been talking all day, so for them to shut up was awesome,” Green said.

“I think we did a good job adjusting to (Olsen) with our block and our defense,” Gubbins said. “She’s just great, but our own passing and setting really sets us up to make good decisions.”

Wilson will visit JSerra for the semifinal on Saturday. The start time is yet to be determined.

VIDEO: Wilson vs. Newport Harbor, CIF Girls’ Volleyball
PHOTOS: Wilson vs. Newport Harbor, CIF Girls’ Volleyball
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.