Girls volleyball: Matadors expect a winning season with veteran team

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Malini Ramaiyer

When the team met up for practice on Aug. 27, they had to practice in the field house because set up for Welcome Back Rally was in the gym. It was sweltering outside and the lack of airflow inside the field house didn’t help, but the girls laughed at each other as they patiently set up the rickety nets.

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On Aug. 27, seniors Michelle Wang, Kirthi Gomatam and Karissa Mi joke around with head coach Colin Anderson while setting up the nets. Wang, Gomatam and Mi were all on the team last year, so they’re already familiar with the team dynamic. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer.

After only one week as a team, the players had already formed a bond, because this year, with 11 returning players, the girls volleyball team changed little. Whereas last season, it had 17 Matadors; this season, they only added two new players, making the golden number 13.

“A large squad is hard. I’ve seen volleyball teams with nine players, 12 is the perfect number,” head coach Colin Anderson said. “Once it gets too large, it gets to be a distraction. It’s hard for the team to be cohesive and a good unit together.”

Since there are already seven seniors on the team, the Matadors didn’t have a lot of lost skill to replace. As Anderson pointed out, team captain senior Sydney Howard will be setter for her fourth season this year. The seniors’ good attitudes and extensive experience, such as Howard’s, will strengthen the leadership of the team.

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Junior Ellie Cary(right) compares elbow bruises with senior Michelle Wang(on the floor) as junior Amanda Hua and senior Vivian Lee watch in amusement. The team has only had a week of practice, but the players have already bonded since most know each other already. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer.

“It was very difficult and we had some excellent players we had to cut,” Anderson said. “We have seven seniors this year and that’s a lot. So it’s about just finding that balance and that juggle changes from year to year. I feel that this was the best balance to give us the best squad.”

However, girls volleyball was left without middles after Class of 2015 alumni Hannah Pollek and Nupur Banerjee graduated last season and senior Nicole Anderson decided to attend Middle College at De Anza.

So for tryouts, the team cut all but two new players — freshman Phoebe Li and sophomore Kelly Chen, who have already found the team warm and welcoming.

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Sophomore Alia Johnson and freshman Phoebe Li compare arm lengths. The two middles, along with junior Elli Cary(not pictured) will play in the three middles positions open after last season. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer.

“There is some pressure but everyone has been really nice,” Li said. “So I don’t really feel too bad if I miss a serve or something.”

As there are two other players for each of their positions, Li and Chen know that they might not get as much playing time but also that the team veterans will provide good guidance for them. As team captains, Howard and senior Michelle Wang want to make sure that the underclassmen feel included. Both played varsity as freshmen, so they know what it’s like to be the youngest on the team.

“It’s interesting having two new younger players trying to see where they fit in,” Wang said. “I know as an underclassmen, it was a little intimidating playing on varsity and it’s a little strange being the baby of the team. I just want them to be more included so it can be a family presence on campus.”

On Aug. 27, when the girls were setting up the nets, even Li and Chen were having fun and practice hadn’t even started. Since the bond had already existed from last season, Li and Chen just had to find out where they fit into the picture and they were able to find out quickly.

While it has many strengths, including its dynamic, the team lacks the height necessary to put up a solid block.

“Our middles are 5’10”, 5’10” and 5’8” and the top middles [on other teams] will be 6’2”, 6’4”, 6’6”,” Anderson said. “We can still adjust but there are going to be teams taller than us. And that’s fine, we just need to rise up, give good defense and that’s it.”

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Seniors Kirthi Gomatam(center), Sydney Howard(left) and Karissa Mi(right) laugh at each other as they try to set up the nets. All three are playing their last season of MVHS volleyball this season. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer.

The Matadors expect a lot more from this season as the El Camino League is a step down from the past competition. Furthermore, the team leadership knows that the team’s structure, experience and defense will ensure a good season.

“Our goal is to win league, go undefeated in league and go on to CCS,” Wang said. “And then show them it was a mistake to put us in the lower league.”

The team will face Gunn High School for its first home game on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.