By Jeremy Balan
Missing standout senior outside hitter Katherine Evers due to an illness, University High School needed an extra presence on the floor against visiting Lincoln on Tuesday, and it got it from junior outside hitter Sara Wojciechowski.
Wojciechowski led the Red Devils with a match-high 16 kills and a team-high five aces in their 23-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 15-6 win over the defending Academic Athletic Association champions.
“With Katherine out, the whole team needed to fill that gap and I think by the end of it we got together and filled it in,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s good to know that our defense will always be together and our hitters will step it up.”
Wojciechowski’s play was solid throughout, but her impact was greatest in the final game, where she had two aces, and served the final eight points, as the Red Devils (5-2) went on a 8-0 run to close the match.
“I let them know before the match that it’s not OK to lose, even without our best player,” said University head coach Nicole Schott. “[Sara] is one of the hardest workers on this team and I told her before the match that we definitely needed her to step up tonight.”
The Red Devils also got a lift from outside hitter Caroline Joost, who had 11 kills, and libero Pauline Ryan, who had four aces and led a solid University defensive effort.
University dominated the deciding fifth game, but Lincoln was in control after winning the third behind the standout play from a pair of freshmen.
With their starting middle blocker and outside hitter out with long-term injuries, the Mustangs leaned heavily on freshmen outside hitters Rianna Menikheim and Amanda Loo.
Menikheim was Lincoln’s most consistent hitting threat, with 13 kills, but also was deadly from the service area, tallying a match-high six aces, including three in a row to end the third game. Loo, a small but high-flying attacker, added seven kills.
Still, assistant coach Curtis Lee, who was serving as head coach in the absence of Vincent Tang, felt the need for a strong leader on the court in crucial situations.
“It’s hard, because they don’t have enough varsity experience to where they know how to take a leadership role,” Lee said. “Just as a whole team, we let the easy stuff kill us. That killed our momentum and it’s hard to come back from that.”
Both teams enter league play later in the week, with Lincoln opening their AAA season in a championship rematch against Balboa on Friday, and University opening the Bay Counties League West season against Convent, also on Friday.
After dropping their first two non-league matches of the season, the Red Devils are starting to return to their 2010 form with five consecutive victories.
“I just want them to know there are still small things to work on,” Schott said. “The biggest thing is to stay disciplined in our defense and that’s improved our game so much.”