Boys volleyball: Team’s loss to Deer Valley HS in NorCals semifinals ends season

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Malini Ramaiyer


Photos by Aditya Pimplaskar and Christine Liang.

Seven seniors and four years of volleyball makes one heck of a team. The kind of team that wins a lot, that laughs at themselves on the court, that makes history.

Senior Joey Wilson and coach Paul Chiu stand next to each other during the recognition ceremony. Wilson after the ceremony but before the game, played the national anthem on his saxophone. Photo by Christine Liang.
Senior Joey Wilson and coach Paul Chiu stand next to each other during the recognition ceremony. Wilson after the ceremony but before the game, played the national anthem on his saxophone. Photo by Christine Liang.

On Mar. 11, they beat Mountain View High School for the first time in MVHS’ history. On May 7, they became league co-champions for the first time in MVHS’ history. On May 16, they defeated season rival and co-champion Los Gatos High School to qualify for the CCS championship and NorCals for the first time in MVHS’ history.

And so they continued, breaking record after record and redefining MVHS’ history. They lost in the CCS finals but continued to NorCals. They broke another record in the NorCals quarterfinals and continued to the semifinals, where the seven seniors’ four years of volleyball finally concluded.

On May 28, the Matadors held their last home game of the season for this NorCals semifinals match and lost 3-1 to Deer Valley High School. Senior David Chang named the Facebook event “MV NORCALS SEMIFINALS 5/28 LAST EVENT” — they wanted people to come to this last home game and people did. The stands were split equally between DVHS fans, who had driven an hour and a half over from Antioch, and the Matadors.

The game began with these fans in silence as senior Joey Wilson played the national anthem on his saxophone. When the game started, the audience grew in volume and cheers broke out during timeouts. They competed to see who could chant the loudest. Despite the unusually full bleachers, MVHS’ performance seemed to dwindle as the match progressed.

The team was prepared for a tough match so they won the first set 25-19 due to consistent play. However, the second and third sets are where the team dropped the ball.

By the second set, the bleachers were full of attentive fans. Throughout the game, the stands cheered and the two schools competed in not only volleyball but also volume. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

“We made too many hitting errors,” coach Paul Chiu said. “[If] we cut down hitting errors, we’d have probably won his match.”

The defense held up the team by playing scrappy throughout the match. The game consisted of long rallies because defensive players, especially Chang and senior Tejas Gopal, picked up everything and anything they could, pancaking whenever necessary. These long rallies often ended with hits by MVHS going out or into the net, costing the Matadors points that they couldn’t afford to lose.

Junior Alex Li prepares to pass the ball to junior Eric Zhang. MVHS' defense was consistent for all four sets against DVHS on May 28. Photo by Christine Liang.
Junior Alex Li prepares to pass the ball to junior Eric Zhang. MVHS’ defense was consistent for all four sets against DVHS on May 28. Photo by Christine Liang.

“[DVHS] played pretty consistently,” Chang said. “They set the pace of the game. We were on the back foot, trying to catch up to them.”

Thus, the second set ended close but still as a loss for MVHS at 25-22 and the third set ended as a sweep for DVHS who won 25-15.

With the fourth set, the Matadors woke up and picked up the pace of their play. The score remained tied as the opponents fought point for point up until 22-22 when DVHS pulled ahead with a serving streak. Game point — set and match.

And then, just like that, the Matadors’ volleyball season was over.

As the fans descended the bleachers to support their team, so did the tears of the MVHS seniors. It was their last game ever — they were done.

Sophomore Prathik Rao goes for an outside hit in the fourth set. Despite a burst of energy in this last set, the Matadors couldn't keep up with DVHS in the last couple points. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.
Sophomore Prathik Rao goes for an outside hit in the fourth set. Despite a burst of energy in this last set, the Matadors couldn’t keep up with DVHS in the last couple points. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.

“It’s a tough way to go out. We had a chance but you know I’m so proud of them,” Chiu said. “Those seven seniors have come such a long way in terms of where they started four years ago. They worked so hard — this is the hardest working senior class I’ve had in my six years at Monta Vista.”

Chiu walked around the gym as the crowd built up. He navigated the mass to find each senior and he gave them a hug. And then, these seniors hugged their underclassmen teammates. Crying, they hugged their family, their friends and each other.

“It’s always hard to end a high school career in something,” Gopal said. “It’s not about winning. It’s about giving it all on the court. Today we didn’t pull through but I couldn’t have asked for a better season. We’ll be the class that’s forever remembered and the team that’s forever remembered.”

Senior Yining Pan, the energy of the team most notable for his cheers during the game, was especially emotional. Whether it’s cheering “just one good pass let’s go” or “side out guys side out,” Pan always supported his team. For four years, he supported and joked around and played and now, it’s over. So he cried, tears of sadness and tears of happiness — he cried for his four years, for this game and for his team.

After the match, the team went through rounds of hugs. This game, against DVHS, marked the end of the seniors' high school volleyball career. Photos by Aditya Pimplaskar.
After the match, the team went through rounds of hugs. This game, against DVHS, marked the end of the seniors’ high school volleyball career. Photos by Aditya Pimplaskar.

 

“This moment right here, I’m never going to forget.” Pan said, sobbing. “This is the pinnacle of what we hoped for, we made history this year, we got into finals for CCS, we made it into NorCals — I think we set a really good precedent for the years to come.”

Seniors Jeremy Wang and James Mullen described it as a bittersweet moment. It was a celebration of their success, their team and their friendship.

“The thing that’ll I’ll remember the most when I’m older will not be when we’re on the court but the times we hung out. The times before practice, the times during practice,” senior Kevin Zhang said. “It didn’t matter how many records we broke this year. It just mattered that we had a bunch of friends I could count on and that they’re always there for me.”

While the seniors must say goodbye to their friends and move on to college, the goals of the team remain just as ambitious as this season’s “win league, win CCS and win NorCals.”

“Everybody’s just got to get a little better.” Chiu said. “Not a lot better, just a little better. We’re returning a good crew and we’re going to be right there next year.”

The team poses for a picture after the match. On May 28, the Matadors faced  DVHS and lost 3-1, finishing their season at NorCals semifinals. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.
The team poses for a picture after the match. On May 28, the Matadors faced DVHS and lost 3-1, finishing their season at NorCals semifinals. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar.