Wilson won the DCSAA championship for the first time Friday. (Spencer Nusbaum/TWP)
By Spencer Nusbaum
November 12, 2021 at 10:12 p.m. EST
Heading into the D.C. State Athletic Association final, the girls on the Wilson volleyball team knew they had a chance to accomplish something no D.C. public school had done before them: claim the title of state volleyball champions.
So it was only natural the Tigers cradled the trophy as long as they could Friday night after surviving Georgetown Day’s comeback attempt and prevailing, 3-2 (26-24, 29-27, 18-25, 17-25, 15-9), to secure the school’s first DCSAA title.
“It just means the world to [our team], even though not everyone fully knew the history,” senior and tournament MVP Summer Campbell said after the match, played at Sidwell Friends School. “We were playing for each other. All the hard work paid off.”
For the upperclassmen and the coaching staff at Wilson (23-1), the win felt like a coronation after years of late-round playoff losses. In 2017, Wilson became the first D.C. public school to make it to the final, and in 2019, it made it again.
Coach Perette Arrington, who has spent 22 years with the Wilson program, said the Tigers consistently put in extra hours to compete with private schools despite a disparity in the financial resources.
“We are underestimated,” Arrington said before the match. “We can and have competed with the best of the best, and we still don’t get credit for what we do. So if anything, going out there tonight, we step on the court for Tiger pride, for Wilson pride. Otherwise, no one is going to give us credit where credit is due.”
Neither team had a singular hitter who took over the match, both opting for a more team-centric approach — though Georgetown Day’s Jada Aksu came the closest to a one-person show, carrying her team to a third-set victory — which meant the result ultimately came down to the side that made fewer mistakes.
That was apparent in the second set, when Georgetown Day’s 24-19 lead evaporated with a string of errors. Wilson also made several defensive saves during that stretch to win the set 29-27.
Freshman defensive specialist Danielle Wallace and junior liberos Kate Bukowski and Mia Saunders anchored much of the defense, while Campbell was the most powerful offensive player and supplied a rocket of a kill in the fifth set just before the team clinched the match.
“Volleyball is a game of errors,” Campbell said. “So we just had to minimize our errors and capitalize on our own strengths.”
Noticeably absent from the title game was St. John’s, which had won seven straight titles entering the 2021 playoffs but was knocked out by Georgetown Day (21-3) in the semifinal round. St. John’s had eliminated the Grasshoppers in the semifinals in four of the previous five seasons.