Spirits were high as the Redwood girls’ varsity volleyball team won a neck in neck match against the Drake High School Pirates on Wednesday, Sept. 5, continuing their six game winning streak and remaining undefeated.
Throughout the six games played so far for this season, the team has skillfully averaged 2.8 aces, 10.6 kills and 10.2 digs per set, according to MaxPreps. Although the Giants began the match down 2-0, they did not stay behind for long, and eventually won the first set, 25-18.
The second set started with Redwood in the lead, as senior Ella Spaethling spiked the ball down the line. Junior Jordan Perry attempted a block, but Drake played the ball and continued the rally. From there, sophomore Ella Green charged forward, making a kill and bringing the Giants ahead by two. After a long rally, Drake won the point, and put themselves into the lead.
Due to a lack of communication on Redwood’s side between the outside and middle hitters, Drake tied the game and eventually took the lead, with Redwood losing the set, 24-26. They then retaliated, winning the next set with the help of their first year coach, Ursula Kunhardt who has big hopes for the team’s season ahead.
“I have a lot of hopes for these girls coming into this season, and I felt like they had lost a little bit of their confidence, especially with their results from last season, so I knew I had a big task coming in. I want to get their confidence back up and get them excited to be back in the gym and playing volleyball, just wanting to go out and win. [I hope we can] take on the pennant, win MCALs and move on to NCS. I want them to feel like they can achieve really great things this year,” Kunhardt said.
Although the team did not get the results they had been hoping for last year, losing 9 games, they are redeeming themselves this season with new talent on the team. Middle hitters, such as freshman Brooke Leslie, have been a valuable asset, according to Kunhardt.
“Brooke’s the only freshman I took on varsity this year and I threw her into this role of the starting middle. At first I could tell she was a little hesitant but she’s starting, she’s getting kills, she’s being a force and she really surprised me,” Kunhardt said. “She had a slower start in the first couple of matches, but just seeing her play in our game yesterday, she just totally blossomed. Even if she’s not the biggest middle, she’s definitely a really dynamic middle, especially being so young.”
Brooke was a big contributor to the game, getting kills and making assists throughout all five sets with an average of 0.8 kills per set.
“I thought it was going to be really hard to connect with all the girls since they’ve been on a team together for so long but within the first few weeks I felt like I had always been on that team with them. They’ve really accepted the fact that I’m a freshman playing with them and it’s really fun,” Brooke said.
Brooke’s sister, Taylor Leslie, is a senior on varsity team as well and enjoys having her sister on the team.
“I really like this year’s team because it’s a lot more lighthearted and all the girls are super nice which is really fun. And this year’s really special for me because my sister’s on the team and I get to help her with being on varsity and that sort of thing,” Taylor said.
The team’s strong bond reflects on and off the court as Redwood took the third set, only needing one more to win the game. However, the team was not communicating as well in the fourth set, resulting in a drastic loss of 25-16, which left them determined to win the fifth and final set.
“As a team, we should have communicated better in the fourth set, because we ended up losing by a lot and I think we would have played better if we were all communicating more with each other,” junior Lucy Walsh said.
Tensions were high as the final set began, the crowd was roaring and Redwood was set on winning. The Pirates won the first point of the set, but Walsh retaliated with her serve, and, with the help of her teammates, won the point. From there, the team worked together and took the lead, winning the game.
“I think the fifth set was the biggest highlight of the game because we had just come off of losing the fourth set. Coming back and winning by that much after losing was a huge highlight. Being with my team at the very end and winning was so amazing,” Walsh said.
The varsity team plays a tournament this Saturday, September 8, at El Cerrito High School.