Boys volleyball: Matadors rebound from loss against St. Francis HS to a win against Los Altos HS

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Boys volleyball: Matadors rebound from loss against St. Francis HS to a win against Los Altos HS

Om Khandekar

Co-written by Malini Ramaiyer

The boys volleyball team is dominating their league and season in a style reminiscent of last year. They broke record after record, making it all the way to the championships, where they fell to St. Francis HS. The Matadors’ rematch against SFHS marked the game as a key point in their season and SFHS as the Matadors’ ultimate competition.

Before their game on April 6, MVHS hadn’t lost any home games, even with a younger team. But after facing the SFHS Lancers once again at home, this record was destined to change. Due to many unforced errors and a lacking offense, MVHS lost to SFHS 3-1. Their first loss at home was to the team that took the championship away from them last year, indicating to the Matadors that they had some work to do before CCS.

The first set started out slow with numerous errors by MVHS. By the first timeout, called by head coach Paul Chiu, SFHS had a seven point lead, with the score at 2-9. The errors came from missed serves and a haphazard offense. The hits were wildly off target, giving the Lancers easy points.

Boys Vball vs. St. Francis - 18

Junior Prathik Rao watches as senior Eric Zhang misses a dive to save the rally. The Matadors lost the first set 14-25.

“Unfortunately, against a team like [SFHS], two to three plays per set is the difference,” Chiu said. “That’s all it takes.”

With the Matadors trailing behind, the first set ended quickly with SFHS winning 25-14. For the first time this season, it seemed as though the Matadors were on the receiving end of the treatment they usually had reserved for other teams.  Against teams like SFHS, the competition was heightened– it was another wake up call to the efforts the Matadors would have to go through for a title this year.

Although the first set began with a three point lead for the Lancers, the Matadors started strong with three points of their own in the beginning of the second set. However, SFHS tied the score shortly after at five points with strong hits that went through the MVHS block.

This set grew closer as the Matadors’ defense improved and they cleaned up their hitting so that less balls sailed out of bounds. This was the first home game for senior Alex Li, who sat out for two weeks due to an eye injury. Li’s hits initially went out or into the net, but after a while, he found his rhythm in this second set, bringing in points for the Matadors.

“It’s nice to be back with the team. But obviously, I’ve only had one practice for the past two weeks,” Li said. “So things are going to be a bit scrambled.”

The score moved up point by point for the Matadors and each careless error had a consequence. So when the score was tied at 23, MVHS blocked out, putting the ball in the hands of the Lancers. At game point, SFHS got the kill from outside and won by a mere margin of two points, 25-23.

“They sent a freeball over and we watch it drop. Those are huge points, momentum killers and we had a couple moments like that,” Chiu said. “We can get away with that against lesser competition but you can get away with that with a team like [SFHS].”

The third set was key for the Matadors as they had been so close to a win in the set before. SFHS seemed to waver and dropped back to careless play. Both teams were plagued by missed serves, shanked hits, double touches and missed fouls. But MVHS found a way in this third set to cut those errors and pull ahead, winning 25-20.

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MVHS calls a timeout during the third set. Despite winning the third set, the Matadors lost the game 1-3.

Running on the momentum from the third set, MVHS dominated in the first part of the final set. They were in the lead at 8-4 when the Lancers started to catch up. Through a combination of MVHS’ lack of communication and SFHS’ aggressiveness on the net, the Lancers were able to tie the score at eight and pull ahead from there.

Just as the Lancers pushed forward with their 16-19 lead, they called a timeout. MVHS’ defense and serve-receive remained solid, but as was the case throughout the match, the MVHS offense continued to score points for the opposing team through hitting errors and a general lack of communication.

Rising to the top, the Lancers took the match point with a hard-angle kill from outside, winning the set 25-20 and closing out the game 3-1.

“Our players, a lot of them are just not used to playing championship points yet,” Chiu said. “Playing a team like [SFHS] now is about practicing how to play championship points, that’s why I scheduled them in and hopefully we’ll learn from the mistakes today.”

Boys Volleyball: MVHS vs. St. Francis High School


 

 

 

Rolling into the last few games of their regular season, well past the 1-3 loss they faced against Saint Francis High School, the Matadors started off a new week with a weary roster and an intense weekend long tournament behind them. With only two weeks left until CCS finals, MVHS was missing key starters– junior Yash Hedge and sophomore Jason Shen– to sickness and a knee injury. Despite the absence of teammates, the Matadors came ready to play on April 25, and showed no signs of slowing down in their victory against Los Altos HS.

“I just think we had the momentum,” sophomore Joshua John said, “so we had to keep pushing.”

 

 

 

Gearing up for a prospective league title, the Matadors pushed through the LAHS Eagles on April 26 in straight sets: 25-16, 25-23, 25-21.

The Matadors were able to start the game on a roll to quickly end the first set. Despite many side outs on both sides, the Matadors were able to gain a lead and bring the score to 19-11 without significant opposition. Junior Prathik Rao spearheaded MVHS’ defense, saving the point numerous times throughout the Matador’s earlier drives.  Along with strong blocks from seniors Nathan Mallipeddi and Eric Zhang, MVHS ended the first set on their terms with a nine point difference.

“My team definitely showed up,” senior Alex Li said. “We’re missing Jason [Shen] so personnel wasn’t full, obviously. But we’re never full in personnel anyways. So they stepped up and a lot of our freshmen stepped up as well and I’m really proud of them for that.”

Although the second set began without many errors, the middle of the second set caused the Matadors to stumble. Beginning with a strong run, missed serves and well placed hits in LAHS’ favor brought the score to 22-22. Despite the Eagles’ catching up, MVHS still remained confident in their own abilities.

“We were missing serves,” head coach Paul Chiu said, “and I was okay with that because I was telling them to be aggressive with the serving location, but I think we had very few hitting errors,”

Before the Eagles’ could mount a comeback, Malipeddi got a clean hit to an LAHS shoulder and secured the Matador point to end the set.

“They could never really get a points run on us,” Chiu said, “so we stayed patient and we got our run and that’s the way we expected it.”

Despite a relatively tight third set, the Matadors cemented their victory against LAHS with a final push to end the night. Although the leads wavered during the set, a five point run for the Matadors’ marked the beginning of the end for LAHS. With a missed LAHS serve, MVHS took home three sets to end the game in their favor.

“They didn’t seem like a really solid, well rounded team,” Li said, “so I think we just outclassed them.”

Looking at the last three games of their schedule leading up to CCS, MVHS has started to shift towards getting ready for playoff mode. With two games within three days of each other, Chiu worries less for the record of his team and more about their viability as a contender for a title.

“We’ll always be fired up for senior night, we don’t need anything special for that,” Chiu said. “We just got to survive Wednesday.”

MVHS will face Mountain View High School at home on Apr. 29 at 6:45 p.m.

Photos provided in part by Patrick Yeung