Wilson Starts Season Of High Hopes

Sometimes the burden of expectations can overwhelm a team. Take the Long Beach Wilson girls volleyball team, for example. Never had the Bruins had such a high profile. Coming off of a CIF-Southern Section Div. I-AA title, and with standout starters like Alli Dillon, Emily Hendrickson and Cynthia Barboza returning, Wilson was the consensus choice as the top Southern California team and earned a pre-season No. 11 ranking in the FAB 50. Could the Bruins live up to the hype in their opening match?

You bet! Against a Peninsula High team that advanced to the section semifinals last year and had its own lofty goals, Wilson showed from the start Thursday evening that it was the dominant team, cruising to the 15-3, 15-4, 15-8 season-opening win.

"Our goal is to win state," said Dillon, a senior setter. "In order to do that, we have to go game by game. And we have to take each practice seriously, because everyone's going to be out to beat us."

Back to back aces by Dillon got the Bruins off to a fast start and they never let up. Buoyed by poor Panther serving, Wilson raced to a 14-0 lead in Game 1, including the match's high point, when Loren Barry covered well, leading to a Barboza bomb.

Game 2, which Barboza dominated, also saw Wilson jump out to a huge lead, demoralizing Peninsula. Megan Wright's ace closed out the win. Peninsula had its moments early in Game 3, darting to a 6-0 lead. But Wilson was just too good. Dillon's ace broke an 8-8 tie and the Bruins tacked the next six points on the scoreboard to send the crowd home happy.

The only negative for the team ranked No. 2 in the Golden State was a severe ankle sprain to middle blocker Carolyn Blood. The senior, a transfer from Millikan, went down hard with Wilson up 14-0 in Game 1. Preliminary indications were that no bones were broken.

Hendrickson said that the injury to Blood will bring the Wilson team closer together. "When players get hurt, we all have to step it up together," she said.

One interesting side note: Hendrickson and Dillon are two of just a handful of Hot 100 college prospects in the Class of 2003 yet to commit. Both have seen interest come predominantly from the East Coast despite playing, quite successfully we might add, for the high profile Cal Jrs. 18s volleyball club that claimed ninth in the Open Division at Nationals.

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