Members of the Wilson girls volleyball team were surprised at the relative emptiness of the Maret School’s stands for their DCSAA semifinal game on November 12. Last year, the Tigers were defeated by the Frogs in Maret’s homecoming game, a loss which players attributed in part to the intensity of Maret’s student section. Thursday’s playoff game, however, proved different: the majority of the fans were Wilson parents, according to senior outside hitter Rochelle O’Brien.
Despite this advantage for Wilson, the Tigers were unable to come away with a road win, losing 3-0 to the Frogs and marking the end of the team’s season. Maret went on to lose in the DCSAA finals the following day at the hands of defending champions St. John’s College High School.
Although the Tigers weren’t able to bring home the state championship, they far exceeded expectations given the team’s circumstances. Having lost 9 seniors from last year’s team, this season “had to do a lot with rebuilding,” according to senior libero and co-captain Laura Gonzales. Despite the loss of players, the Tigers boasted a 14-4 regular season record, with their only pre-playoff losses being to private schools.
With this record, the Tigers cruised into the DCIAA playoffs as the first seed and didn’t look back. The team defeated Bell High School and Banneker in the quarter and semifinals, respectively. The Tigers, who had won the public school championship the preceding seven years, then faced second seed School Without Walls in the finals on November 2nd and lost 3-0, a crushing defeat for a team that had looked untouchable for most of the season.
“We just didn’t really show up to play,” said O’Brien.
After the game, School Without Walls freshman Olivia Viorst told Eric Goldwein of the Washington Post, “I guess we now have the best reputation because we just won.” This provocative quote ignited a thirst for revenge in the Tigers, which they were given a shot at quenching in the state tournament.
Wilson lucked into a fourth seed for the DCSAA playoffs and were once again matched against Walls (fifth seed), but at home this time. On November 11, the two faced. The Tigers trounced the Penguins 3-0, proving that the results of their last game were meaningless.
“If there’s any word to describe that [first] game, it was a fluke,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien is one of four seniors who will be leaving the team after this year. She, along with Gonzales and her co-captain Sasha Hallman, as well as outside hitter Kayla Wiggins, will be leaving the team in the hands of rising seniors Molly Berman (who is the underclassmen captain) and right side hitter Cameron Boucher-Khan.
In the eyes of O’Brien, the best part about playing on the team was “the incredible coaching.” Sisters Patrice and Perette Arrington, both of whom have extensive history as volleyball players, led the team this year.
“They know the game so well and they’re so passionate about it and they have so much heart, honestly they’re the best coaches in the world. I couldn’t have asked for anyone else,” says O’Brien.
Given this and given the way the team has proved its ability to bounce back from a loss of seniors, next year’s volleyball season is already looking promising.
Athletic Director Mitch Gore weighed in, saying, “They have some good, young talent. Obviously a little rivalry has developed between them and Walls because Walls has some good young players too. It’ll be neat to watch.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF TIPP MCCLURE