Wilson Finally Gets It Done

When Long Beach Wilson and Long Beach Poly faced off for the first time in girls volleyball this year, Wilson won the first game before dropping the next two, 17-15, 15-12, and losing the match. When the teams met again 12 days later on Oct. 4, the result was the same: Poly won the fifth and deciding game, 15-3, after the teams split the first four.

The teams met again Oct. 30, late in the regular season. Guess what? A similar result. Poly won the first two games and the decisive fifth game, 15-12, to complete the Wilson hat trick.

So, when the two teams gathered Saturday for the CIF-Southern Section Div. I-AA finals, who could expect the result to be any different? Wilson's players, that¹s who.

"There was no doubt in my mind that we weren't going to win," said senior outside hitter Ali Finucane. "We knew we could win in our heart."

"We came into the game pretty confident," added junior setter Alli Dillon. "Our hopes were up and our intensity level high."

With that attitude, the Bruins were able to overcome dropping the first two games and come all the way back for a 12-15, 10-15, 15-3, 15-7, 15-10 win and their first ever section title.

"I'm so excited, I can't tell you," Finucane exclaimed. "We've always been really close to them and they've always taken it to us. But we played excellent. Poly had an excellent match, too. It was our turn. I feel so excited that we actually won the finals against them. I wouldn't want to play anyone else."

Early in the match, it appeared Poly would be the team celebrating a championship. Behind All-American outside hitter Jennifer Randall and three other seniors, the more seasoned Jackrabbits calmly jumped out to a 2-0 lead, as the youthful Bruins had trouble serving and lost points and sideouts several times on miscommunication errors.

Down 2-0, Wilson coach Susan Pescar took measure of her girls. "I told them, 'Has it occurred to you that the last time we played Poly, they won the first two and we won the next two. This time, they won the first two and we're going to win the next three.'"

And that's exactly what the Bruins (24-7) did. Getting huge performances from freshman hitter Cynthia Barboza and right side hitter Emily Hendrickson, Wilson turned the match around, while the good things Poly was able to do in the first two games simply stopped happening.

Wilson easily won Games 3 and 4 to set up the rally-scored fifth game. The Bruins were confident, but uneasy, because they hadn't won a fifth game all season.

The first points went back and forth as the teams played cautiously while working our nerves. Tied at 7-7, Hendrickson put on a show. She sandwiched three kills and an ace serve around a lift call to build an 11-7 lead. Then she turned the hitting chores over to Barboza, who took Wilson home. The last kill, her 24th, ended the match and started the celebration.

"We stopped playing, plain and simple," Randall explained. "I had a feeling it was going to go five. We got complacent and beat ourselves. We just stopped playing."

Randall never stopped playing. She finished with a match-high 28 kills, including nine in the momentum-turning third game, when it appeared she was the only Poly hitter capable of getting a kill.

"She's carried us all year long hitting wise," said Poly head coach Jeff Eyanson, whose team fell to 24-5. "Barboza hit the ball, Randall hit the ball. It was a war between the two of them. Wilson got more shots than we did. We talked before about whoever gets the last shot would win. They spoke up last tonight."

In other action from California:

Three nationally ranked teams won first ever Southern Section titles Saturday. Mater Dei, the No. 3 team in California, defeated Irvine 15-9, 15-6, 15-1 to win the Div. II-A title. Whitney Pavlik, Breegan Mulligan and Ashley Bayer combined for 36 kills.

Marymount used a diverse attack paced by Cara Thomason to score a 15-8, 15-3, 12-15, 15-5 triumph over Laguna Beach in the Div. IV-AA match. And San Clemente made it to the winner¹s circle for the first time, dominating El Toro 15-1, 15-8, 15-7 on the strength of 17 Katy Daly kills, to claim the Div. I-A crown.

Mira Costa won its eighth section title, dominating Newport Harbor 15-8, 15-3, 15-10 to take Div. II-AA. St. Joseph also had an easy time of it, beating Pacifica 15-9, 15-4, 15-7.

Around the rest of the state, all of the favorites won their matches, but many had a tougher than expected time getting the job done. In the San Diego section, state No. 1 and national No. 2 Torrey Pines had to battle with Poway for five games before pulling out the 12-15, 15-10, 15-1, 14-16, 15-11 win and the Falcons' 12th Div. I section title. Ashley Smith had 21 kills and Michelle Kaufman 20 for Torrey Pines, who withstood 21 kills from Poway¹s Andrea Fisher. San Pascual beat Scripps Ranch for the Div. II title in San Diego.

In the Central Section, the state's No. 5 team, Buchanan, also survived a scare. The Centennial Golden Hawks, ranked 13th in the state, gave the Bears all they could handle in the Div. I match before losing 12-15, 15-12, 15-11, 12-15, 15-7. Cassandra Kolkka led Buchanan with 16 kills while Centennial's mighty mite, Jackie Bernardin, paced the Golden Hawks with 24 and nine digs.

Up north, the state's fourth ranked team, Archbishop Mitty, cruised through the first two games of its Div. I title match with Hollister, 15-6, 15-1 and took a 5-0 lead in the third. But Hollister won the third game, 15-13, and led 4-0 in the fourth before the Monarchs closed the deal in the Central Coast Section. They won the fourth game, 15-9, and are favored to win the NorCal tournament, which begins Tuesday. Tessa Sphar paced Mitty with 14 kills.

In other Central Coast Section action, Presentation easily handled Los Altos, 15-2, 15-11, 15-4 in Div. III, while Woodside Priory won its third straight section crown in Div. V, dispatching Redwood Christian 15-8, 15-5, 15-6. St. Francis in Div. II and Menlo in Div. IV won section titles the evening before.

Finally, in the North Coast Section, Berkeley stomped Bishop O'Dowd in three straight to win the Div. I title while Carondelet needed five games to beat Campolindo in Div. II. There was no report on the Div. III battle between El Molino and Sonoma Valley.

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