By Jeremy Balan
Washington High School’s girls’ volleyball team took a 2-0 lead early in the first game on the road against Lick-Wilmerding, but that was about as good as it got for the Eagles.
The taller and more athletic Tigers responded in force, sweeping Washington 25-10, 25-12, 25-10 in non-league play on Monday at Lick-Wilmerding High School.
Led by a match-high 11 kills and three aces from sophomore outside hitter Jade Sparks, the Tigers (1-0) went on an 8-0 run in the first game, a 7-2 run in the second and a 7-0 run to end the deciding third game.
“I saw nothing but potential,” said first-year Lick head coach Gary Hodge. “They’re in the right places and doing the right things. They were putting things together that I didn’t expect to see for a couple of weeks.”
Sparks was the most consistent hitting threat throughout, and also kept the Eagles (0-1) off balance with a powerful jump serve.
“She’s really our only legitimate varsity contributor returning. The rest were just part-time varsity players last year,” Hodge said. “She’s setting the tone and picking up where she left off. That’s a special kid.”
Not to be outdone, senior outside hitter Brenda Young tallied 10 kills and three aces. The Tigers also got a lift from senior libero Jessica Erlich, who notched a staggering six aces that all came in the first game, and junior middle blocker Annie Wilson, who had five kills and two blocks, but consistently altered Washington attacks.
As solid as Lick played, Washington was consistently out of sync and struggled with attacking possessions, only recording six total kills, led by Reika Kagami’s team-high three.
“They just came out scared. Don’t ask me why,” said Washington head coach Jennifer Gee. “Our hitting is actually pretty decent, but they came out, saw the crowd and realized now it’s real.”
The Eagles are tasked with replacing graduated standout Jessica Nicerio, who carried a significant load last season and was a player Washington relied on heavily.
“I love Jessica, and she was a blessing, but she also hurt us a little bit,” Gee said. “She was such a big hitter that they all relied on her and now that we don’t have that, they’re not used to it yet.”
For Lick, the season-opening win was a welcome result, but challenging Division V powers University and Marin Academy in the Bay Counties League West is a top priority.
“It’s not an upset if the underdog thinks it can win the whole time,” Hodge said. “We have an opportunity to sneak up on some teams because we graduated six or seven last year.”