Boys volleyball serves on and off the court

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Photo by Lauren Liu

As the season end approaches, the team hopes to qualify for the Central Coast Section Championships.

Emma Constable

Beating hearts and suspended breaths lock spectators in anticipation as a serve echoes off the gym walls. As the ball soars over the net, the sidelines erupt in cheers and chants, engaging the varsity boys volleyball team in five intense sets against their rival Monta Vista on March 23. With a winning score of 3-2, the team’s victory marked its first against Monta Vista in six years, and on April 15, the team secured an impressive second win of 3-2.

Boys varsity volleyball is currently ranked third in Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s De Anza division, after Fremont and Los Gatos. Following a third victory of 2-0 against Monta Vista on April 23, the team was ranked seventh in northern California by Bay to Bay, a popular Bay Area volleyball club consisting of many successful players whose schools often dominate its top 10 spots. The Saint Francis, Mountain View, Clovis West and Bellarmine volleyball teams often drift in and out of the top four.

The team’s persistence and coordination has helped to secure wins against rivals such as Monta Vista, Saratoga and Los Gatos. Volleyball is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one, and players must rely on nonverbal cues to develop both a strong defense and an unrelenting offense. Due to communication mishaps on the court, the team has also experienced several difficult losses, including a 3-2 loss to Homestead on March 25 and a 3-2 loss to Cupertino on April 1. 

“Those were moments where we weren’t able to come together as one cohesive group,” senior and captain Kyle Wyatt said. “It was a good reality check that any team can beat us if we don’t focus during our games.”  

Off the court, the team’s rigorous training schedule ensures that players learn to move as an interdependent unit. Every weekday, the team builds endurance with various drills before playing a scrimmage to simulate games. Team captains and seniors Derek Liu, Kyle Wyatt and Andy Xu occasionally influence practices by deciding what skills to focus on, such as communication. The team also addresses strategies that worked for opponents after analyzing video clips of particularly tough games. 

Much of the team has been playing together for several years, contributing to a strong team dynamic as players are already familiar with each other. However, new members, including one freshman, have also had success integrating into the team, boosting fluid interactions and overall performance during games. 

This season is marked by a shift in skill level across the board due to strong players from opposing teams graduating last year, but beyond physical skill level, the team attributes its successes to players’ genuine dedication to the team and its progress. As a former volleyball player himself, coach Kevin Lord acts as a centering force who keeps players accountable, and the team’s unified approach to games is bolstered by an intent to check in with each other during gameplay rather than blindly pursuing the goal of winning. 

Additionally, the team’s parents have greatly supported players throughout the season by preparing meals and snacks before games. 

“I really have to commend the team parents this year,” Liu said. “We always have a table with food out there ready for us, and we also have lots of parents in the audience all the time.” 

Close relationships among players have also been fostered outside of games and practices. The team’s Instagram, @lhsmensvball, highlights the lighthearted aspects of the sport with group photos and videos of “wholesome volleyball moments.” The team has bonded over conditioning during winter break, laser tag and lunches at Chipotle. Inevitably, being on the varsity boys volleyball team has led to treasured experiences and heartfelt memories for many players.

“When I came onto the team I was pretty serious, but then I realized that it’s still a time to have fun,” Liu said. “We have a lot of funny photos, and we like to keep things lighthearted.” 

As the season end approaches, the team hopes to qualify for the Central Coast Section Championships — a goal within reach after winning critical games against Monta Vista on April 15 and against Homestead on April 27, their senior night. The team’s final home game will be against Cupertino on May 4.