The threepeat

Boys volleyball falls to Bellarmine CP in CCS for third year in a row

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The threepeat

Rana Aghababazadeh, Editor-in-chief

For the third year in a row, the MVHS boys volleyball team played Bellarmine College Preparatory in the Central Coast Sections at Saint Francis HS, this time in the finals. The boys won their first game against BCP earlier in the season with a score of 3-0 and lost a neutral game at the Bellarmine tournament later in the season. BCP retaliated again in this last game of CCS, barely beating the Matadors with a score of 2-3, the last set, a two-point deficit for MVHS.

The first set was a quick win for the Matadors, with a lot of fast plays. Like previous games in the season, the team gained most of their points from open kills by juniors Nikhil Bapat and Gautham Dasari. With the boys in the lead, the energy in the gym was like nothing before from both sides of the bleachers, the MVHS crowd, including staff members, jumping to their feet after every point.  

BCP didn’t stay far behind, but the score difference remained mostly even throughout the last half of the set. Near the end of a five-point scoring streak, senior Jason Shen executed a floor dig, followed by a timeout as the MVHS team surrounded him cheering, score 10-6.

Even though MVHS stayed ahead the rest of the set, BCP closed the gap with repeated blocks in response to loose kills by junior Rajas Habbu.

After a timeout by MVHS, the Matadors went on to finish the set, despite BCP’s efforts to dig low and to set up for kills. The boys’ offense was loose in the last points, but the set concluded due to offensive errors by BCP, score 25-20.

 

After a long rally, MVHS players on the court and on the bench celebrated. The last points of the set included longer plays compared to the beginning when points went by quickly. Photo by Om Khandekar.

The second set took a different turn. The same trend occurred as in the first, but the roles of the teams switched. MVHS maintained a steady point gap behind BCP but was unable to close the score, totaling to a set score of 1-1.

The teams tagged behind each other, consistently tying the score in the beginning of the set. When the score was at an even 5-5, BCP started to take its lead that would remain through the rest of the set.

The Matadors lost points mainly due to unforced errors and struggles to get the ball over at the net. They periodically got points from outside kills, but remained quieter than usual, and cheering was minimal from the crowd. The boys made several solidified plays, but BCP’s defense was quicker compared to the first set, hitting into the gaps of MVHS’ setup.

Once they were able to pass they were able to get their big middles up, and that kept our block off balance,” junior and setter Kevin Mathew said.

Near the end of the set, MVHS made a two-point scoring streak, erupting both crowds as head coach Paul Chiu called a timeout. However, offensive errors by junior Gautham Dasari and Habbu gave BCP the set, score 20-25.

Junior and outside hitter Gautham Dasari bumps the ball after a slow kill by BCP. The Matadors had several plays where they set up the ball for powerful kills. Photo by Om Khandekar.

The third set was louder than any previous point in the game. With slower plays, and frequent discrepancies between the referees, both teams and crowds were on the edge of their seats.

Early on, MVHS struggled to catch up to BCP as they continuously returned offensive hits. It almost seemed like BCP was going to take the set after a series of quick plays that left the score at a gapped 3-8. But after a block by Habbu, and a net touch from BCP, the MVHS crowd stood up again, signaling the start of a return from the Matadors.

The boys went on a five-point scoring streak. Dasari executed a far kill that made the MVHS bench stand up, calmly clapping. After an additional kill from Habbu, which tied the score 8-8, junior and outside hitter Nikhil Bapat shoved Habbu’s head to into senior Kevin Tong’s 一 in celebration, of course.

On the other side of the court, the BCP team remained vigilant. After the score tie, BCP took the lead again, and the rallies turned more fast-paced. In one play, BCP hit the ball straight to Shen’s chest but touched the net in the following point. After a set from Mathew, Habbu tied the score once again to 17-17. The plays remained short-played, partly because of serving errors by both teams.

Despite BCP’s effort to throw the MVHS defensive line off-guard, Mathew set up Dasari to clean up the final points of the set with deep kills, score 25-22.

Junior Kevin Mathew sets in the later points of the set. Strong setting from Mathew to Dasari and Pachori gave MVHS quick points. Photo by Om Khandekar.

The set scores were now out 2-1, with MVHS in the lead. However, BCP remained persistent and didn’t stay far behind MVHS in the first half of the fourth set. Throughout the game, MVHS gave BCP freeballs that allowed BCP to get hard kills. BCP scooted ahead near the end of the set, ending it 22-25.

 

The persistency of both teams could be seen in the fifth set as neither team allowed the other to get ahead by more than three points. MVHS serves from Bapat and junior Poofy Pachori made it difficult for BCP to set up for strong executions. The Matadors stayed ahead until the last few points of the set.

Early in the set, after a big hit down the net from Dasari, Habbu comes up for a hard block, sending a BCP player into the scoreboard table. In the next point, Shen dives from afar, and Dasari finishes the point with another big kill, score 4-2.

Shen executed a floor-low dig in the following point, but Habbu was unable to return the ball, running into the bleachers. Despite noticeable communication errors between Pachori and Mathew, as well as Shen and Dasari, Bapat sent a kill from the backline, making the score 6-4.

Soon, junior Adarsh Pachori served to throw BCP off-guard, giving Bapat another opportunity to execute another big kill from the middle to kick up the score to 8-5. After a timeout, Chiu puts all starters into the game. BCP starts to close the score gap, repeatedly tying it. MVHS was boosted again to a two-point lead with a score of 11-9 after BCP made a net error.

However, BCP gets a block off of Poofy, and Dasari hits out in the following point. Later, Dasari drove the ball straight to a BCP block, kicking BCP up to 11-12.

The SFHS gym was impeccably loud when Chiu called a timeout, and the adrenaline could be seen running through the players of both teams.

Dasari hits the ball again into the BCP defense, giving them their largest lead, 2 points, since the beginning of the set. Although MVHS came up from behind to tie the score at 13-13, a BCP hitter gets the hit down the net and claims the next point as MVHS fails to return the ball, finalizing the score 13-15.

According to Dasari, the main issue for the Matadors was coming back from lost points. In certain sets like the last, he notices the missing drive to come back.

“We didn’t play as hard,” Dasari said. “And we made some mistakes and we weren’t able to bounce back from those mistakes which is a key part of why we screwed up.”  

The games against BCP are almost always close, unlike most games the Matadors played this season against other opponents. Dasari noticed that there was a different level of play needed and that they couldn’t simply win in three sets.

We came into this game thinking the game would boil down to the last few points and maybe the fourth or fifth set,” Dasari said. “We came here with that mentality that we were gonna hafta fight for every single point and every single point is precious.”

The team ended CCS in second but will play in the NorCal Boys Volleyball Championships. Their first game is on Tuesday, May 22 against Whitney HS in the MVHS gym.

Boys volleyball: CCS Finals vs Bellarmine CP