Matthew Wilcox’s match-winning kill in the fifth set to keep Dos Pueblos alive in the CIF-SS boys volleyball playoffs wasn’t the prettiest, but it was thing a beauty for the Chargers and their fans.
Wilcox finished off a crazy scramble by shooting the ball into the deep court, where confused St. Francis defenders couldn’t make a play. Once the ball hit to the floor, the DP players went crazy.
Their wild 25-21,17-25, 14-25, 25-20, 15-13 come-from-behind victory Saturday at Sovine Gym moved them into next week’s Division 2 quarterfinals.
“We just didn’t give up,” said Grant Hughes, DP’s senior setter and captain, who recalled similar comebacks against league rivals Santa Barbara (a loss in five sets) and San Marcos (a win in five). “We won against San Marcos and we won this game in five, and it’s just amazing. Just never give up no matter what, even if you’re not playing good.”
DP coach Ehren Hug said the team’s comeback after falling behind 2-1 and not playing well “showed a lot heart and a lot of determination. Those two middle sets we struggled from every area.
“You know volleyball matches go through all kinds of leaps and bounds. I was really proud of how they answered back in the fourth and fifth and shook off a couple of sets that were pretty, pretty ugly. They just kept playing volleyball.”
The Chargers and Golden Knights were tied at 13 in the fifth when Micah Goss went back to serve. The St. Francis libero mishandled the serve to put DP at match point.
On the next play, St. Francis went to middle blocker Blake Welsh on a quick set. The set, however, was low and Welsh poked it over. Charger libero Ezekiel Tynes dived and kept the ball in the air as he crashed into an oncoming Goss. Setter Grant Hughes went low and bump-set the ball to Wilcox who pushed to St. Francis’ back court for the win.
“It’s such a volleyball,” said Hug. “We’ve all seen it. At the lower levels that happens all the time. It happens at the international level too. You just never know, just keep sending it over.”
The jubilant DP players raced around their side of the court. Hug jumped into Wilcox’s arms.
“It wasn’t our best outing by any means, but we needed it,” said Hug. “(The ball) was in when we needed it and the end.”
Wilcox said it was the second time he scored a match-winning point by setting the ball over the net. He did it in a five-set win over San Marcos.
“We just scrambled to get the ball up. Grant got it and tried to get it up and then I just found the corner.”
“When we played San Marcos, Matthew had a set over. And he did it again,” said Hughes. “So it’s the classic Matthew Wilcox. We’ll take it.”
Wilcox credited the team’s energy for keeping it engaged in the match after struggling in the second and third sets.
“It was the energy from our bench. We were getting the crowd involved,” he said.
That energy combined with the hitting of middle Nicholas Schultz Clifford and the jump serves of Jan Schimdtchen helped the Chargers go on 5-0 run to break a 19-19 tie in the fourth set. Hughes made a great reaction play off a St. Francis block to keep a ball alive and Goss delivered a kill for a 24-19 lead.
Travis Brown sided out for St. Francis before Schultz Clifford scored on a tip for a 25-20 win. That pulled the Chargers even at 2-2 in sets and gave them new life.
“It’s super exciting, it’s such a great win for these guys,” said Hug. “It builds so much more confidence because they’ve been there. They’re still on the mountain and they can keep chugging up.”
Schmidtchen led the Chargers with 13 kills and was solid serving down the stretch. Goss had 10 kills, three blocks and two aces, Schultz Clifford had eight kills in the middle to go with three blocks and Wilcox added seven kills, four blocks and a service ace.