By Jeremy Balan
The manner in which the Washington High School girls volleyball team defeated Lincoln in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals was definitively ugly.
But the result, for a school that has never won a AAA girls volleyball title, was beautiful.
The second-seeded Eagles capitalized off a staggering 57 Lincoln unforced errors that resulted in points in a 25-22, 17-25, 25-21, 25-20 win on Tuesday at Washington.
“If we had more talent or no talent doesn’t matter,” said Lincoln head coach Vincent Tang. “If you don’t play your game on any given day, you’re going to lose. Washington – and you gotta tip your hat to them – made the least amount of mistakes and kept the ball in play.”
The Eagles were not short on mistakes either, with 35 unforced errors, but didn’t come close to the Mustangs, who gave Washington over 50 percent of its points on Lincoln errors.
After a relatively successful attack in the first game, where Washington hitters tallied 16 kills, the Eagles recorded just 13 kills in the final three games combined. Outside hitter Lefan Chi had five kills in the first game and led the Eagles with a team-high seven in the match.
“We just talked about defense, unforced errors and playing smart,” said Washington head coach Jennifer Gee. “Except for that second game, we limited unforced errors and we won.”
While the Washington attack was balanced (five Eagles hitters tallied five kills or more), the Lincoln offense almost entirely ran through outside hitters Maggie Chen and Rianna Menikheim. Menikheim had a match-high 12 kills and Chen scored 10.
“We expect them to carry the load,” Tang said. “They know how to play. The outsides have been carrying us all season.”
The win gives Washington its first playoff win in at least 10 years (AAA records only include playoff details going back to 2002), but Gee speculated that the Eagles haven’t been to the league championship since she was on the team in 1989.
Top-seeded Lowell awaits in the AAA title game on Thursday and the Cardinals have yet to lose a single game in league match this season. Lowell has won a record 27 AAA championships since the San Francisco Section began playing girls volleyball in 1974.
“It was a good milestone for us,” Gee said of the semifinal victory. “We just have to move forward and hope for the best. They’re going to find out if they’re ready. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and Lowell is the best.”