Boys volleyball: Undefeated MVHS conquers rival Cupertino HS 3-0

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Malini Ramaiyer

Photos by Pranav Iyer, Om Khandekar and Aditya Pimplaskar

One rotation had two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen, and the other had three seniors, one junior and two freshman. This is the makeup of a team predicted to compete in the championships, the breakdown of a team who had to conquer their rivals, the lineup of a team that entered the match undefeated themselves and left with a record of 6-0.

Despite starting a young lineup, the boys volleyball team dominated against Cupertino High School on Mar. 25 in straight sets(25-19, 25-21, 25-15). MVHS expected a challenge since CHS was also undefeated and they were missing key player, outside hitter senior Alex Li. Li was out for two weeks due to an eye injury. However, with the addition of freshman Gautham Dasari, the Matadors had no problem with putting the ball away consistently.

“It was a great crowd. It’s always nice to have a big crowd here,” head coach Paul Chiu said. “It was a real positive environment. I can’t say enough about how the team stepped up in [Li’s] absence.”

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Sophomore Jason Shen goes up for a hit from outside. Shen’s consistent offense put MVHS ahead during the match. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

The first set was relatively close, ending 25-19 due to several unforced errors by the Matadors. While junior Yash Hegde, senior Nathan Mallipeddi and senior Ethan Kulla strengthened the MVHS defense with their blocking, the Matadors missed too many serves and sent too many free balls out.

CHS was able to put up a fight with their offense. Even though the Pioneers lacked height, they had the vertical and strength to hit hard and make quite a few kills. Nevertheless, the power of the hits went uncontrolled and often, took the ball out of bounds.

“We won because we didn’t make as many mistakes as they did,” Kulla said.

Sophomore Jason Shen carried both the team’s offense and defense with consistently hard kills from outside and solid passes in back row. Both Kulla and Mallipeddi’s hits also brought in points for the Matadors, putting MVHS ahead.

The second set was even closer, with CHS trailing four points behind MVHS. The set closed at 25-21 with an ace by Dasari. The nature of the match was very back and forth. Since both teams were undefeated and strong, it was not an easy win for the Matadors.

The Pioneers took advantage of side outs due to MVHS unforced errors and stayed close behind for most of the match. Whether it was a missed serve or a hit out of bounds, the errors added up for both teams. But in the end, the Matadors were able to show that they’re the better team.

“I expected a very competitive match. Our guys really stepped up,” Chiu said. “Everybody played well. They executed the game plan perfectly.”

Senior Nathan Mallipeddi embraces senior Ethan Kulla at the end of the match. Kulla scored the match point off of an ace. Photo by Pranav Iyer
Senior Nathan Mallipeddi embraces senior Ethan Kulla at the end of the match. Kulla scored the match point off of an ace. Photo by Pranav Iyer

With this execution of their game plan, the third set finished faster than the previous two, a rarity for the Matadors. MVHS usually finds itself relaxing and trailing behind in the third set after winning the first two sets, but on this Friday, the Matadors finished strong. Even as a freshman, Dasari started and brought in points with his hard-angle hitting from outside. Overall, his game was solid, without errors — this really helped the team, which was missing Li.

“[Dasari’s] been pulling his weight around, so it’s pretty nice,” Kulla said. “We didn’t have [Li] this game, so we were expecting a challenge. But in the end, we were the better team.”

Kulla also pulled his weight throughout the match. Especially toward the end, he didn’t hesitate to play aggressively on the net. He won the penultimate point with a kill following a long rally. The final point was much more simple — Kulla served an ace. 25-15 and the whole team stormed Kulla, celebrating his consistent play. After this successful match, Chiu wants to proceed with a focus on improving serve-receive.

“Serve-receive and defense,” Chiu said. “When we serve-receive well, all our offensive options are available. We’re a hard team to defend when we’re passing well.”

The team will face Saratoga High School at home on Mar. 30 at 6:45 p.m.