Keep your enemies closer: Teams hold rivalries with the schools nearest to home

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Pranav Iyer

Reported by Pranav Iyer and Malini Ramaiyer

The stands were full, it was raining and the game was in a deadlock as they headed into a tiebreaker. It was the 1973 helmet game and current head coach Jeff Mueller lead the team as the starting quarterback in this game as part of the first graduating class of MVHS.

“We had them beat and all of a sudden, they threw a double pass and went for 50 yards and they beat us at the tiebreaker,” Vierra said. “To this day, all those kids that I see who played in that game, even [Cupertino High School] people who played in that game, come and talk to me and tell me about that game.”

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The Matadors faced the CHS Pioneers on Nov. 13. It was a close game throughout, but the Matadors were able to come out on top to get the 28-18 win and retain possession of the helmet trophy. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer. 

The football team, along with other MVHS sports, define their primary rivalries as ones either with teams of similar skill or teams with familiar faces. Knowing their opponents brings out their best by bringing back past memories for the Matadors — it’s friendly competition.

Football is the only program at MVHS that has developed a formal rivalry since 1969 — no matter what league they play in, they play Cupertino High School each and every year. To add more incentive, both teams play for the coveted Helmet trophy and bragging rights for the rest of the year. The Matadors have dominated the rivalry throughout the years, having won the past 12 years in a row.

Last year, senior quarterback Golan Gingold was finally able to get the revenge against the Pioneers for a loss to CHS that he and his teammates suffered from during his sophomore year on junior varsity.At this year’s Helmet game, Gingold and the Matadors faced their rivals the Pioneers’ senior night and emerged with a 28-12 victory.

“Every year there are going to be different players, but it’s just knowing that it’s MV versus ‘Tino that makes the rivalry,” Gingold said. “No matter who’s on our team, it’s always a rivalry.”

Unlike the football team, the girls tennis team hasn’t considered Saratoga High School, Homestead High School and Menlo School as their rivals for their entire history; however, the rivalry was prominent a couple of years ago. In 2012, they faced Saratoga High School four times throughout the season. They beat SHS all four times and went on to become undefeated. In 2013, for their first game, they faced SHS once again and lost.

Senior Anna Kang recalls the team’s disappointment her sophomore year as they fell to their rival. They ruined their undefeated record from the previous season in one game, the first game. For the rest of the season, the team had close matches with SHS but was never able to defeat them.

Junior Laura Cao plays in a tennis match against Homestead HS on Sept. 29. The Matadors were edged by the Mustangs in this rivalry matchup, 4-3.
Junior Laura Cao plays in a tennis match against Homestead HS on Sept. 29. The Matadors were edged by the Mustangs in this rivalry matchup, 4-3. Photo by Sandhya Kannan. 

“Our relationship with the Saratoga people, we’re actually close with all of them,” Cao said. “When we go on the court, we’re always talking and friends. There is no animosity between the players.”

“Until we play the game,” Kang said, qualifying Cao’s statement. “But it’s only on court.”

The volleyball team experiences a similar dynamic with their rival Lynbrook High School. With LHS only four miles away, the players aren’t very distant from each other.

“Some of our teammates on club are people from Lynbrook,” team captain senior Sydney Howard said. “That gives both of our teams an advantage since we know each other’s tendencies.”

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Junior Ellie Cary hits from the outside against Lynbrook HS on Oct. 27. Cary carried the offense throughout the game, allowing the team to win in straight sets. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer

The Matadors won the El Camino League with the Vikings coming in a close second. The first two times the two teams met, MVHS won in straight sets. For the third match, however, the Matadors lost 2-0 at the Milpitas/Independence Spikefest II Tournament on Oct. 31. Even though the Matadors’ loss was not in league play, it still had a large impact on them because of the rivalry.

As a devout fan of both teams, LHS junior Kevin Chu frequents the stands of both Matador and Viking home games because he has many friends on the MVHS team. Chu doesn’t believe that there is much tension between the teams.

“It’s like a friendly rivalry. We’re all just goofing around, even with the players,” Chu said, at the second game on Oct. 27. “They are just here to play a good game of volleyball. They’re not here to start any beef or have any drama. After all, it’s just a sport.”

Many teams, including girls tennis, girls volleyball and boys water polo, have difficulties forming long-lasting rivalries as the competition along with the team’s own dynamic changes from year to year. Instead, these teams see their rivals as whoever is their biggest competition.

“When you have past experiences with the other team and you are on the same level as them it usually tends to spark up some competition,” said boys water polo team captain senior Yoav Shmariahu.

In contrast, Cao wants to de-emphasize the rivalries on their team as new members come in. The team has heard the stories of rival matches seasons past with teams like SHS and Menlo School. Cao would classify the Menlo Bears as a rival just because of the back and forth with them. Like they would for SHS, MVHS used to beat MS consistently until Kang’s sophomore year when they lost to both the Falcons and the Bears. Later in that season, the team was overjoyed to conquer the Bears in both CCS and NorCal finals.

“But then my sophomore year and this year, we haven’t been able to beat them, like at all,” Cao said.

In the past couple of years, the team has lost key players and every game feels as intense as a rivalry match. So when the rivalry is built up like this, Cao believes that a loss or a series of losses cause extra disappointment for the team.

“Nowadays, we just have to try against every team,” Cao said. “We don’t really want to focus on rivalries per se, because I feel like that sets a bad precedent of ‘you have to beat this school, you have to beat this school.’ When you don’t, it becomes really disappointing.”

As girls tennis moves away from their rivalries, the football team knows that their rivalry with CHS will always play a role in their season. Because of the stakes and the legacy of their rivalry, players from both sides always treat the Helmet Game as the most important game of their season despite how minimal its implication on their season may be. Win or lose, this rivalry is not something they’ll forget anytime soon.

“No matter where I end up, I will always remember this game,” Gingold said. “I know that 30 years from now, 40 years from now, I’ll still remember every play of that game and it’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about it.”