Boys volleyball: Team defeated in CCS championship game

Boys+volleyball%3A+Team+defeated+in+CCS+championship+game

Malini Ramaiyer

Photos by Aditya Pimplaskar and Pranav Iyer.

A team in the CCS championship match doesn’t lack essential skill. They have to be able to pass, to set, to kill, to serve — they can get the ball over the net.

The boys volleyball team can get the ball over and much more. They had a great season, winning the league as co-champions and then defeating their co-champion. They had a record of 31-5 heading into the CCS championship game, and a league record of 11-1. When asked for their goals, they all repeated the same thing:

“Win the league, win CCS, win NorCals.”

The first one was achieved on May 7 against Lynbrook High School. The Matadors qualified for the third on May 16 against Los Gatos High School. But on May 19, at Independence High School for the second time, the Matadors fell short of achieving their second goal, losing 3-0 to St. Francis High School and taking second place in the Central Coast Section.

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Before the first set begins, MVHS huddles together to get ready for SFHS’ first serve. Their team spirit dissipated as the match progressed, causing them to lose the match. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

“We couldn’t pass very well. [We] allowed them to get on multipoint scoring runs,” coach Paul Chiu said. “Our blocking was a mystery to me tonight. I have to go and look at film and see why we couldn’t really put up an effective block at all, couldn’t slow down the ball at all.”

SFHS played a scrappy game as well, making it extremely difficult for MVHS’ rare hits to be converted to quick points. Thus, the Matadors only accumulated 15 points to SFHS’ 25 by the end of the first set.

Anxious to overcome their initial loss, the Matadors made more mistakes. The second set was characterized by tight passes that could only be converted into wide sets, subsequently pushing out and throwing off key hitters like junior Alex Li and senior James Mullen.

This match displayed the symbiosis between different positions on the court. Since the block was lagging and SFHS easily hit around it, the defense suffered. The sets suffered because the defense suffered. The hits suffered because the sets suffered. The whole team was making errors because someone they depended on just couldn’t deliver well enough.

Seniors James Mullen and Yining Pan go up for the block on SFHS' outside. The MVHS block was shaky throughout the game as the Lancers were able to make easy kills. Photo by Pranav Iyer.
Seniors James Mullen and Yining Pan go up for the block on SFHS’ outside. The MVHS block was shaky throughout the game as the Lancers were able to make easy kills. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

So as the team spirit dwindled down, the errors continued and MVHS lost the second set 25-16. Chiu reasoned that the players lacked a sense of urgency to pick up their spirits and game. Having used this sense to win three days before against LGHS, Chiu and the players were puzzled as to why they couldn’t channel their best into this game.

“Maybe because [this match] wasn’t do or die, like the [LGHS] matches. ” Chiu said. “We knew we’re going to have more volleyball.”

Even if the team lost this match, they would continue their season in NorCals, where they might see SFHS again. The Lancers were the Matadors’ biggest competition all season long. After defeating LGHS 3-1 on Apr. 29, they lost to SFHS in a scrimmage 3-0 the next day on Apr. 30. Similarly here, after they won 3-2 on May 16, they lost to SFHS in the CCS championship 3-0.

Senior Kevin Zhang serves in the second set. Both teams suffered from serving inconsistency, giving up points to the other team on missed serves. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.
Senior Kevin Zhang serves in the second set. Both teams suffered from serving inconsistency, giving up points to the other team on missed serves. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

While SFHS did make errors, but the key to the match was that MVHS made more. Miscommunication, which rarely affects the amiable and close team, occurred between players. Passers, especially, had this problem because a crossover defense strategy was lacking — the Matadors’ achilles heel of this match as the Lancers’ consistent hits passed through the blocks and right in between passers. In this match, errors added up too fast and consequences counted too much.

Realizing this, the team came out much stronger in the third set. The Matadors trailed behind one or two points throughout the match, giving dedicated MVHS fans who had driven up to IHS a reason to cheer. Nevertheless, SFHS quickly picked up after the score tied at 17. From serving aces to letting the Matadors shoot themselves in the foot with errors, this team was strategic and selective with their plays.

So despite the inherently intense nature of a finals match, the storyline of this championship game was ultimately quick and uninteresting. For all three sets of the match, the game point was lost on an error, the last way one would expect a CCS final game to go — SFHS won the last set 25-19 and the whole match 3-0.

Principal April Scott presents presents the second place trophy to team captains seniors Tejas Gopal, David Chang and James Mullen. After losing the CCS finals match, the Matadors took second place behind SFHS. Photo by Pranav Iyer.
Principal April Scott presents presents the second place trophy to team captains seniors Tejas Gopal, David Chang and James Mullen. After losing the CCS finals match, the Matadors took second place behind SFHS. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

“It was definitely a tough loss,” senior David Chang said. “But through the tough losses, it’s always good because our team knows exactly how we need to improve to beat teams that are at [SFHS]’s level or even better.”

Co-champions, no matter how many kills they’ve made or matches they’ve won, can still make errors. With this knowledge, the Matadors’ last goal persists: winning NorCals.

They have qualified for NorCals and the matches will begin next week — their season is far from over, but they are ready to take back control of the controllable factors in their play. Serves will be made, passes will reach the setter, sets will be clean of doubles, hits will go over the net because as Chiu described, NorCals is their last chance this year.

“We can take and we can very well see SFHS again,” Chiu said. “So our goal now is Do-or-Die and it is to win [NorCals].”