Volleyball Wilson

CIF Girls’ Volleyball: Wilson Falls In Semifinals At JSerra

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

Wilson girls’ volleyball had its CIF Southern Section Division 2 run end in the semifinals on Saturday at JSerra where the Lions closed strong for a 25-16, 21-25, 25-14, 25-21 victory.

It was the first semifinal appearance for the Bruins since 2005, and their season isn’t over with CIF State starting in two weeks.

“I feel like we just never got in a groove,” Wilson coach Chris Ceballos said. “(JSerra) did a good job keeping us off balance with their service. That’s the toughest passing game we’ve had in a long time. Hats off to (JSerra) they’re a well balanced team that moves the ball around so you couldn’t hone in on one or two players so everyone was getting good swings.”

Senior Babi Gubbins once again led Wilson with 17 kills while fellow outside hitter Chloe Pravednikov filled the stat box with 15 kills, nine digs and four blocks.

“We had a slow start and we picked it up in the second set, but I feel like we weren’t able to pick up the energy at key moments,” Pravednikov said. “(JSerra) was able to keep momentum and come back even after we won the second set, which is something we weren’t able to do.”

JSerra had nine different players record kills in the match while seniors Reese Brown and Tatum Johnson both had 12 kills. Sophomore Emma Champagne had four of the eight service aces for the Lions.

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It’s important to note how unique and spacious the gym is at JSerra, especially in the middle of the day with light shining through the windows behind the Lions side. As has been the case for almost all of the games this season, the teams didn’t switch sides so JSerra had the sun at their backs all game.

“There’s definitely a home court advantage,” Ceballos said. “This gym is tough to play in. There’s glares from the doors (behind the JSerra side) when they serve from that angle.”

That proved to be key when Champagne went behind the line in the first set with the score tied 15-15. She proceeded to score four consecutive service aces to give her team the lead for good in the set. The Lions closed the set on a 10-1 run.

Wilson bounced right back and took a 9-0 lead in the second set thanks to phenomenal defense. With seniors Kate Eckenrode (18 digs) and Camille Agrupis (13 digs) leading the back row. Agrupis also had two aces in the match.

JSerra closed the gap late in the second set by feeding Johnson and others in the middle, and despite dropping the set 25-21, the Lions rolled their momentum over and took the match going away. They led by five or more for most of the third set, then three consecutive kills from Mikaela Brennan broke the fourth set open for JSerra.

The Lions held Gubbins and Pravednikov to a .250 hitting percentage.

Wilson wasn’t distraught after its first loss in the last six matches.

“(I told the team) to keep our heads up,” Ceballos said. “We battled and it doesn’t take away from the season we had. And we still have State to look forward to. We’re upbeat.”

The CIF State brackets will be released next weekend after the CIF-SS championship games.

“We can learn from what just happened,” Pravednikov added. “We need to have a stronger start and be able to adapt to anything.”

VIDEO: Wilson vs. JSerra, CIF Girls’ Volleyball
PHOTOS: Wilson vs. JSerra, 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.