Pioneering the first win

Emily Vu

Varsity boys volleyball beat Cupertino 3-2


Despite the constant flip-flopping scores of the games in the match, the Matadors knew they couldn’t flop the first game of the season. The Matadors beat the Cupertino Pioneers 3-2 on March 3.

The Matadors came into the first game determined and confidently won 25-17. The serving  remained strong throughout the game and the team demonstrated exceptional net play while the back-row passers were able to dig up every ball.

Contrary to the decisive win in the first game, the unfocused Matadors struggled in the second game with back row passing as well as front row hitting. Although junior Ryan Michelfelder started the game off with a strong outside kill, the Matadors soon began to struggle with serve receive, allowing the Pioneers to pull ahead in the lead 14-9.

Junior Jason Hodges’ middle kill along with senior Kevin Wu’s strong serves increased the momentum and pace of the team and lessened the lead to a close 14-15. The Matadors struggled to maintain this momentum as they fell behind 16-21, but were able to acknowledge their standpoint, pick up their pace, and tie the Pioneers 22-22. 

Although junior Eric Wong put up a solid block in the middle to put MVHS in a slight lead, he failed to close the next block and consequently leaving the ball flew out of bounds on the right side. The Matadors unfortunately missed two essential hits at the end of the game and consequently gave the Pioneers the 25-23 win mainly due to their own errors.

 

"During the second to fourth game stretch, the other team wasn’t bombing away on us, but our defense couldnt come up with a good enough pass. They were easy opportunities that a good team could convert into points, so we definitely need to work on our defense in practice," coach Paul Chiu said.

Though the Matadors were disappointed with the close loss in the second game, they made up for all their mistakes in the third game by managing to stay in the lead for the entire time. Michelfelder turned the slow and uneventful start of the game around and put the Matadors in the lead 8-7 by scoring off of three key kills and a powerful ace. The Matadors front row relieved the tough responsibility of the back row passers by taking away any possible Pioneer kills with dominant swing blocks. 


Although the Pioneers’ scrappiness kept them in the game through the middle of the third game, they could not compete with the consistency and power of the Matadors’ front row attacks. Perfect passes from senior libero Justin Maple followed by sets from senior Charles Huh, and then kills from senior Krish Rangarajan and juniors Zachary Lamm and Michelfelder put the Matadors in a solid 19-15 lead. The team continued to execute their plays and put the ball away, causing the Pioneers to call a timeout with the Matadors up 22-19. Despite the Pioneers’ attempt to disrupt the Matadors’ rhythm, the Matadors pushed through and finished off the game 25-19. 

After solid wins in the first and the third, the Matadors’s over confidence threw them slightly off in the fourth game. Though the boys started off the game well, with Michelfelder still raining down kills, careless mistakes began to catch up with them. Lifts on sets, rotation penalties, balls hit out of bounds, and lazy passing by the Matadors were some of the only ways the Pioneers would score. 

"The biggest problem with our team is that we lose focus, and when we lose focus the basics start to fall apart, like we don’t close our blocks and people don’t move when they’re passing so they just try and lean over without taking a step then our passing goes down the drain," Maple said. 

These mistakes would eventually build up to cost the Matadors the game they  could have easily won, 27-25. 

In the final period the Matadors realized their mistakes could cost them their victory and finally began to execute to their full potential.

A kill straight to the floor by junior Jason Hodges began the Matadors’ much improved game, and gave them the early lead of 1-2. Not only was the boys’ offense finally looking solid, dominant blocks by Wong and others displayed their defensive potential, extending the lead to 1-4 early on.  The Matadors breezed through the rest of the fifth period, as they should have the whole game, winning it 15-6 after another perfectly placed kill by Hodges.

"The boys just stepped up and executed the way they were capable of executing. The first and last game, we demonstrated all the aspects of the game.," Chiu said. "We passed our serve receive quite well, we put our serves in the spots we wanted, we got some big defensive plays in there, and our setting and hitting were the most consistent."