Girls’ varsity volleyball hangs MCAL and NCS banners

Max Josef

The crowd cheered as the volleyball hit the ground for the final time on Maria Carrillo’s side. The girls’ volleyball team had claimed the NCS Division II title. The Giants exploded with excitement and congratulated each other in the middle of the court. The girls rose their arms as if to say, “We are the champions.”

The girls’ volleyball team wrapped up its NCS postseason on Nov. 21 with a win against the Pumas in three sets, securing its third consecutive NCS title.

A flawless MCAL regular season campaign was rewarded with the top seed in both MCAL and NCS playoffs. The team was finally able to win the MCAL championship  for the first time in four years.

The team ended its overall season after a dismal, three-set defeat against Presentation High School in the Norcal Semifinals.

The girls' varsity volleyball team poses with the NCS DII championship banner, the NCS DII plaque, and the MCAL championship banner(From left to right).
The girls’ varsity volleyball team poses with the NCS DII championship banner, the NCS DII plaque, and the MCAL championship banner (from left to right).

This year, the team has many players who can perform in different roles. They have been able to succeed even with an injury to key starting outside hitter junior Claire Jackson.

“In the past, we’ve had a main captain or star on our team, but this year we’re all evenly balanced and everyone contributes,” senior captain Elly Lundberg said. “When [Jackson] went down, we were still able to succeed because of our versatility.”

Molina attributed part of the team’s success to senior libero Lily Barber.

“[Barber] has spent most of the season in the background. She’ll pick up any ball, she’ll sprint, she’ll go for a ball that no one thinks she is going to get and she always gets it,” Molina said. “She’s one of the people on this team who does not get as much credit as she deserves.”

The team has six seniors who will be graduating at the end of the school year, four of whom will continue to play in college: Elly Lundberg (Arizona State), Lily Barber (Cornell), Adelaide Shunk (Amherst College), and Margo Spaethling, (Colorado College).

Shunk, a two-year varsity player, feels the team is really close.

“We really mesh as a team. We hang out with each other on the weekends. We’re all best friends on and off the court,” Shunk said. “A lot of us have played with each other, whether it be for club or another team, which has definitely helped us.”

The team’s “mascot” is a pink puppet, which it brings to most of its games.

According to senior Adelaide Shunk, assistant coach Alisa Cox picked up the mascot during a team bonding trip to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

“One of our coaches picked up Mokiki, who is one of those puppets with strings on it. The name Mokiki comes from a “Saturday Night Live” skit called “The Legend of Mokiki and the Sloppy Swish.” We love it,” Shunk said.

Coach Katie Pease has brought in multiple assistant coaches this year, which the players liked.

“The assistant coaches bring that fun attitude. Mike [Buller] helps us with our defense because of his offensive skills, Olivia [Urban] is that person who we can relate to and we can talk to,” Lundberg said. “[The coaches] all have a different role and it really helps us.”

This season was one of the team’s best under Pease, who has been head coach for 18 years.

“It has been a great season. We went 42-5,” Pease said. “This is one of the best teams that I have coached in my 18 years at Redwood.”

The girls' varsity volleyball team and their fans pose with the NCS banner after the team's win in the NCS finals
The girls’ varsity volleyball team and their fans pose with the NCS banner after the team’s win in the NCS finals

The team finished as the 12th best team in the state and the 22nd best team, according to MaxPreps. As of Nov. 3, the team ranked first in California with 1535 kills and 1457 assists. The team ranked fourth in California with a .392 hitting percentage, 31st in California with 366 service aces, fifth in California with 334 blocks, and 18th in California with 1981 digs.

Senior Margo Spaethling placed first in all of California with a .536 hitting percentage and junior Mari Molina placed first in California with 1115 assists.

The team was in a somber mood after its final loss at Norcal Semifinals, as Spaethling noted.

“It stings and it burns, but you hope to have that feeling. Without that feeling, then it does not mean anything,” Spaethling said.