Game GIFs: Boys volleyball defeats Spartans for the first time in eight years


Malini Ramaiyer

It was a night of many firsts for the boys volleyball team as they faced Mountain View High School in their first league game and beat the Spartans for the first time — ever. In the last eight years of the boys volleyball program, MVHS had never defeated Mountain View High School and on this night, Wednesday Mar. 11, they did.

It was not a night of surprises though since the Matadors were already carrying their momentum from winning the Leland Tournament the weekend before. At home, MVHS easily carried their energy into this match. The Spartans consistently kept within two to five points of MVHS, but they could never take the lead from the dominating Matadors.

Blockers freshman Jason Shen and senior Yining Pan softened a Spartan hit. With safe crossover defense, junior Alex Li sent an easy pass to setter junior Eric Zhang who set up a hit for outside Shen. With the whole team’s concerted effort, Shen then facialed a Spartan.

The team started off the first set with clean defense and blocks while the Spartans frequently shot themselves in the foot with net violations and incomplete attacks, so it didn’t take much for the Matadors to pull ahead. Head coach Paul Chiu explained that the team played clinically against the Spartans.

“It was very what I call workmanlike,” Chiu said. “We just plugged away, plugged away, except in that last set we got a big lead and the kids just relaxed a little bit.”

Pan, a bit late for a middle hit, pushed the ball to an empty zone three. The Matadors understood that not all attacks have to be kills, placing the ball where the Spartans were not. The Spartans generated unnecessarily forceful attacks that most often resulted in net or bounds violations for them.

Into the second set, Shen placed the ball right behind the Spartan block. For his first varsity volleyball league game, Shen made 11 kills across all three sets and only trailed two behind Li’s total of 13. Shen plays on the starting lineup as a freshman on varsity yet he finds the team accepting and cooperative.

“We still had pretty good team chemistry,” Shen said. “We beat the other team as one team.”

Assisted by Zhang, leading scorer Li took a kill in the second set. With this night’s win, Li began his third year in varsity. He knows that the team bond off-court is solid; however, Li does feel that the on-court connection can improve their smoothness in play.

“Our bond is pretty good because we go to school together,” Li said succinctly. “We made a lot of errors that we can correct easily. I want to encourage some of these guys to get a better sense of the game because they’re coming from JV.”

Libero senior Kevin Zhang made a clean pass to Eric in the third set. Kevin, as defense specialist, had extremely consistent defense and passing. The Matadors couldn’t have generated as much attack if the passes weren’t this clean.

In this third set though, the team relaxed too much and gave up too many points for “unforced errors,” as Chiu described them. Passes went over on one touch often and the Spartans slowly gained back some speed. Captain senior Tejas Gopal argues that the team should have kept up their momentum through the third set. Gopal does admit, though, that the team has a lot of fun on the court and while they might lose a couple of points, they are good at closing sets.

“Whenever they come back, we’ll always come back,” Gopal said. “Our team is very close together — no one blames anyone. It’s very fun when we’re out there.”

The Matadors never lost their lead, but they came too close, winning by a mere four points at 25-21. With nine returning players, seven of whom are seniors, the team is ambitious across the board. From Chiu to Shen, everyone knows what the goal for the season is: win the league, win CCS, win NorCal. With the speed they’re picking up, perhaps they will find success.

“It was a good effort,” Chiu said. “We could use a little more enthusiasm and we’ll find it over the course of the season.”

Videos by Alina Abidi.

The next home game will take place at 6:45 p.m. Mar. 16 against Harker High School.