Girls volleyball: Team defeats Gunn HS 3-2 in first match of the season


Junior Amanda Hua and freshman Phoebe Li go up for the middle block. In this first set, the team came out strong and swept 25-17. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

Malini Ramaiyer

In the second set, junior Selena Liu goes up for block from outside, while freshman Phoebe Li stays back for tip coverage. The team lacked strong coverage in this set, making them lose the set 25-21. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar
For the first four sets of the match, the team lost the first point of each set. Win, loss, win, loss — they were tied 2-2 and this last set would determine the winner.

For the fifth set of the match, on Sept. 1, girls volleyball won the first point of the set. In fact, they closed off the set 15-7, winning their first match of the season.

When they came out for the first set, the Matadors swept with solid defense by starting libero senior Karissa Mi and offense by juniors Ellie Cary and Amanda Hua. Cary and Hua’s led the team offense with 20 and 24 kills respectively.

With seniors Michelle Wang and Riku Jandu injured and senior Cynthia Shen sick, the new players, sophomore Kelly Chen and freshman Phoebe Li, played a significant role in their first varsity game. When the team was playing 6-2 defense, Chen played as the second setter to team captain senior Sydney Howard, as the other setter Shen was gone. And Li helped the team by always going up for the block.

The Matadors won the first set 25-17, but in the second game, the team slowed down its play and remained three to four points behind GHS the whole time. While the offense remained strong, the defense dropped the ball on coverage before the five-foot line. The team’s serving also sank with frequent miss serves, so the Titans won the second set 25-21.

Senior Sydney Howard sets up junior Ellie Cary for a back row hit in the first set. Cary got a total of 20 kills in the game. Video by Aditya Pimplaskar

“We started playing down to their levels, and I think we’re a better team,” Howard said. “But we realized that and we gathered ourselves.”

As Howard said, the team did gather themselves and mirrored the first set. Cary and Hua’s consistent kills continued, while the team kept up a steady defense. With their unerring skill and serves, the team swept the set once again at 25-15.

In an aboutface, the fourth set was characterized by miscommunication and serving errors. The team’s number of shanked passes rose as the players grew tired and the very enthusiastic GHS advanced ahead. At one point, during a timeout, the team huddled on the court and took a deep breath together — they just needed to calm down. Towards the end of the set, the offense and blocks pulled up the team close behind the Titans.

“When I go up for that hit and my team’s down, I need to get this,” Cary said. “My team’s counting on me to get this.”

In the fourth set, Gunn High School tips the ball and wins the point. MVHS had trouble in this set with court coverage. Video by Ankit Dua

With the game escalating point by point, the set went past the normal 25 points: 25-25, 25-26, 26-26, 27-26.
Each team took a point as it fought for for this fourth set. MVHS wanted to finish off the game 3-1 and GHS wanted to take the match to the fifth set for another chance.

So at 27-26 on GHS’ serve, MVHS made a passing error and GHS won the fourth set 28-26.

“We need to be able to pick ourselves up,” Howard said. “We should not let those serving streaks happen.”

For the fifth set, the team won the first five points in the set and that’s when they knew that they could take the game. It was just a matter of morale. Their serving improved significantly, Howard strategically switched between tips and sets and Li kept up her block.

Head coach Colin Anderson discusses a play with the head referee. There were many controversial calls throughout the game against Gunn High School on Sept. 1. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar
Head coach Colin Anderson discusses a play with the head referee. There were many controversial calls throughout the game against Gunn High School on. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

“I wish I had some magic speech that I could turn on, I did present to the team before the fifth game, just to remind them that the points the other team was scoring was because of mistakes we were making,” Anderson said. “If you want to win, it’s on us. If we want to win, we want to play a high level.”

Thus, the Matadors sped through the fifth set and Li won the game point for the team with a solid block of the GHS middle. MVHS took the fifth set 15-7 and won its first match of the season. After this win, the team looks forward to a successful season. Nevertheless, to avoid close five set matches, it also aims to improve its consistency.

“We really made a lot of mistakes, we gave a lot of points away. We’re a very good team, very good players, but we’re beating up on ourselves sometimes,” Anderson said. “We need to get consistent.”

The next home game will be on Sept. 14 against Piedmont Hills High School at 6:45 p.m.

Senior Sydney Howard sets up freshman Phoebe Li for a hit. The team's offense remained consistent throughout the game on Sept. 1. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar
Senior Sydney Howard sets up freshman Phoebe Li for a hit. The team’s offense remained consistent throughout the game. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar