By Jeremy Balan
Visiting Lincoln High School’s girls volleyball team showed just how good they can be early, then held off Lick-Wilmerding in a 25-8, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19 non-league win on Wednesday.
The defending Academic Athletic Association champions were firing on all cylinders in the first game, behind five kills apiece from outside hitters Maggie Chen and Rianna Menikheim, to go along with four kills from middle blocker Cathy Cai.
“That was as fast an offense as I’ve seen in a while,” said Lick head coach Gary Hodge. “They have a lot of ball control, so much intensity and everyone is swinging. We just haven’t faced anything like that yet.”
Chen led the Mustangs (1-0) with a match-high 14 kills, but Cai arguably had the most impact of the match, collecting 13 kills and five blocks, while also setting up the offense by occupying the Lick middle blockers.
“She’s a big part of our offense and I tell my girls we’re always going to play inside out, make their middles commit to us, then spread it around on single blocks,” said Lincoln head coach Vince Tang.
Also kicking in double-digit kills was freshman outside hitter Rianna Menikheim, who tallied 12. The attack was all orchestrated by senior setter Kara Wong, who kept the Tigers off-balance by targeting five separate hitters that recorded kills, while tallying three of her own.
“She should never have a kill,” Tang said. “If our passing is good, she should never have to dump or hit the ball. When she does get a kill, it’s a bonus, then I look at my back row and say, ‘You’ve got to put it off the net.'”
As forceful as the Lincoln hitters were in the first game and throughout, Lick (2-1) battled back to win the second game, before dropping the final two.
Despite their first loss of the season, Hodge was impressed with the Tigers’ drive to get back into the match.
“What a great opportunity to fold, get done in three and get home early,” Hodge said. “They didn’t take that opportunity. They didn’t even think about it. It was a great experience and there’s never a more motivated group of players than after a match like this.”
Sophomore outside hitter Jade Sparks led the Tigers with a team-high eight kills, but the Lick offense never really seemed to be totally in sync, as the Mustangs dictated play.
“We weren’t ready for that pace and we needed to catch up with it,” Hodge said. “We didn’t really get into it until the second game, and that was huge. I never had the thought that we’d go undefeated, and losses build character especially at this point [in the season].”