By Jeremy Balan
The Bay Counties League West race got considerably tighter on Tuesday, after University High School’s 3-1 (22-25, 24-14, 25-19, 25-22) home win over defending champion Lick-Wilmerding.
With the win, the Red Devils (4-3, 2-1) move into a second-place tie with Lick (6-2, 2-1), and both trail Marin Academy, which improved to 2-0 in league with a three-game win over Drew on Tuesday. University was dealt its first league loss at the hands of Marin Academy on Friday.
“It was a big win,” said University head coach Ki Choi. “It was good for us to come back after losing in five to [Marin Academy] at home, and Lick is another perennial power, so we wanted to make sure we were really focused. If we lost this game, it would have been tough for us. For us to win at home is important.”
At first, it appeared that Lick would prevail as the Tigers won the first game 25-22, but Choi called two timeouts in the first game, stressing the urgency of the Red Devils’ situation. They responded by winning the final three games to close out the match.
“They responded perfectly,” Choi said. “There was a little nervousness playing at home against a tough opponent again, but once they got settled down they played well.”
University was led again by a standout performance from junior outside hitter Katherine Evers, who had a match-high 16 kills.
“She showed what she can do,” Choi said.
The Red Devils also got a lift from senior middle blocker Katie Kirkland, who headed the University block and added 10 kills.
“We all wanted to win after that tough loss,” Kirkland said. “But we really didn’t pressure ourselves too much. We were able to respond well and shake it off. We only needed to fix a few things.”
The Tigers excelled in the first game, but had difficulty getting out of their own way after, committing 27 unforced errors in the final three games. Lick was missing two starters and lost outside hitter Brianna San Diego to an apparent leg injury in the third game.
“It really made it difficult, but I liked how they stuck through that third and fourth game, even though we had to move people around,” said Lick head coach Erwin Chu. “We still showed a lot of drive to win. They did not give up at all.”
The Tigers got a solid performance from outside hitter Jody Fu, who finished with a team-high 14 kills, but were consistently outsized by University’s front line.
“We know we’re going to be outsized against the two big teams, Marin Academy and University, but what we lack in size we make up [for] in other parts of our game,” Chu said. “Luckily in volleyball, you can’t dominate in one thing and expect to win.”