El Estoque

Boys volleyball: Team wins in first round of CCS Playoffs

San Benito HS is finished off in 3-0 rout

Om Khandekar

Photos by Cathie Lin

A kill and a hit are two very similar actions in volleyball, with one key difference. A hit happens anytime a hitter on either team makes contact with the ball. It doesn’t have to go over the net, or be very well timed and most importantly it doesn’t guarantee a point. A kill does. It goes straight from the hitter’s arm to whatever loose piece of floor or body part is unfortunate enough to get in its way and adds a point to the scoreboard in less than a second.

On Tuesday, May 5, MVHS only let San Benito HS have less than four kills in all three sets of the opening CCS playoff game. In what turned into a rout, MVHS won 3-0 with set scores of 25-7, 25-13 and 25-14 as the MVHS boys volleyball team begins their march through the 2017 – 2018 CCS playoffs.

The first set started off on a serving tear by junior hitter Nikhil Bapat, and SBHS ultimately never recovered after the first few points. SBHS wasn’t able to get a successful serve-receive going throughout that first set, even after Bapat errored into the net on his seventh consecutive serve, starting the game 1-7. MVHS head coach Paul Chiu credits this dominant start to the preparation throughout the season.

“We’ve been working on Nikhil’s serve for the last month,” Chiu said. “And I hope he’s able to keep it up, we’ll need it Thursday, and we’ll need it Saturday, and we’ll need it at NorCals.”

After the hitting trio of juniors Gautham Dasari, Rajas Habbu and Bapat sounded off for a series of hard hits and kills, SBHS could only muster seven points off of six errors and a kill. The game ended 25-7 with no scoring runs by SBHS.

For the first time this season, Chiu had a majority of his starters open up the second set. Even more surprisingly, Chiu had senior Christopher Liou go in for the set and Liou finished with a big dig and a big hit from outside. Despite these changes in the team’s gameplan, Chiu still reverted to their regular strategy of suppressing the opposing team’s momentum with a big hitting game led by Dasari and Bapat.

When the score was at 12-6, Dasari sprung at an SBHS freeball to let off a huge hit down the line from outside. It hit an SBHS chest and ricocheted back to Dasari, forcing Dasari to swing again, this time catching the SBHS libero in the face. It still wasn’t a kill. Dasari let off two more hits total before junior Kevin Matthew tipped it for the MVHS point. In the entire rally, SBHS couldn’t get a hand on the ball as Dasari kept bouncing it off the players.

Junior Kevin Mathew sets the ball in the second set. Mathew was one of the starters that played throughout all three sets before being substituted out near the end of the game. Photo by Cathie Lin.

“We’re not actively trying to get into anybody’s heads.” Bapat said. “We just swing away, and we’re a big hitting team and we got a lot of options. So naturally if we’re getting a lot of kills and finding a rhythm, they’re bound to get a little bit flustered on their side.”

The second set ended 25-13. SBHS got two more kills in this set, but the SBHS hitter that got the last kill didn’t celebrate the point. He just sighed and got ready for the next point. The third set didn’t fare any better for SBHS, even though it was the closest set they had all game at 25-15. But for MVHS, this is when Chiu let off his white knuckle approach to the game and started substituting in the bench and junior varsity players that had been brought up to the varsity level for the game. Although this rotation had the most errors in the entire game, they still closed out the game with a ten point lead and some quality playing time from sophomores William Liou, Matthew Yang and Charlie Yi.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Yang said. “You know, playing at the [junior varsity] level and then suddenly coming up to all these varsity kids. They’re a lot bigger, and they hit harder and set better so it was really exciting and I was a bit nervous at first because the level of play was a lot higher.”

MVHS boys volleyball has made the postseason for the past five seasons now. A win in the playoffs doesn’t elicit the same joyous reaction SBHS had when the game was over, as their injured captain gave off a loud cheer while the team walked off the court to applause from the SBHS fans. This year’s squad is different, however. The bench depth has been a major point of emphasis throughout the season, the coaches’ efforts to improve the serving aggression got them a seven point scoring streak to start the game off and five-year-old Dylan Tagawa led the line of players as they shook hands with their opponents.

“We just got to do all those little things,” Chiu said. “We’re going to face a lot more competition on Thursday. I remind the players, it’s not what the other team does, it’s not about who’s on the other side of the net. You execute what we’ve been working on and we’ll be fine.”

Boys volleyball: CCS Round 1 vs San Benito HS

MVHS will play Wilcox HS on May 10 in the field house in the next round of the CCS playoffs. The game will start at 6:45 p.m.