Varsity girls’ volleyball sinks Buccaneers approaching playoffs

By Ariel Yuan

Originally published on November 10, 2014

Junior middle blocker Kris Hui spikes the ball in the Cardinals’ win on Sept.11. Hui played a critical role in Lowell’s 25–11, 25–9, 25–12 win over Balboa on Oct. 17. Photo by Amber Ly

The varsity girls’ volleyball team defeated the Balboa Buccaneers on Oct. 17 for the second time this season. The Cardinals are ready for their semi-final matchup against the Wallenberg Bulldogs on Wednesday.

The team won with set scores of 25–11, 25–9, and 25–12, a notable improvement from the first match it played against Balboa. On Sept. 30, the team won with set scores of 25–12, 25–14, and 25–18.

“Regardless of whoever is on the other side, we can only control what we’re doing.”

The Cardinals had mixed feelings on whether they could defeat the Buccaneers once again. “At first I was worried because when we were warming up, it was really slow,” senior captain and outside hitter Eileen Shi said. “The warm-ups were just really quiet and there was no energy.”

Assistant Coach Joshua Jung had faith that the team would be able to win. “I wasn’t nervous; every game is the same, we just had to come in confident that we’re going to win,” Jung said. “Regardless of whoever is on the other side, we can only control what we’re doing.”

The team’s defense struggled in the first set, losing several points due to miscommunication as well as not being able to get to the ball in time. However, the team’s offense remained strong throughout the entire set. Balboa’s impressive defense was no match for the Cardinal’s swift attacks from the outside hitters, Shi and junior Janet Lao, the middle blockers, junior Kris Hui and junior Celina Kong and senior right-side hitter Tyler Valen. Towards the end of the set, the Cardinals’ aggressive serves crumbled Balboa’s defense and serve-receive, the formation on the court that players create when the opponent is preparing to serve the ball.

“We played as a team, we worked as a team, and even the players that never really played, got kills and covered the tips.”

Although the team’s defense improved, it was the Cardinals’ offense that allowed them to dominate the second set. The team began to place the ball in strategic locations. Instead of simply slamming the ball to the other side of the net, the players’ attacks landed in the gaps of Balboa’s defense. This worked when junior setter Brandi Wong lightly pushed the ball over the net, a move called a dump, instead of setting the ball to the hitters, which caught Balboa off guard. The ball dropped into Balboa’s campfire, an area that’s surrounded by a few players, with no one to intercept it, resulting in a point for the Cardinals. “I always think that it’s good to catch the other team off guard by tipping the ball over on the second hit, especially after my teammates get big kills, because the other team would be more focused on the taller hitters than a smaller setter,” Wong said.

With a few lineup changes, the Cardinals’ offensive strength continued from the second set into the third set. Balboa’s miscommunications on defense as well as offensive errors resulted in many points for the Cardinals. Lowell’s defense remained consistent during the third set, but it faltered a bit towards the end of the set. “I think in the end we were kind of fooling around and we lost some points from that,” Shi said. However, the Cardinals emerged victorious in their second match against Balboa.

Despite a few defense mishaps in the first set, they were able to improve their skills defensively and offensively to dominate Balboa throughout the entire match. “We’re at Lowell, so I’ll give them a grade. It’s going to be an A, maybe a 94 percent out of 100,” Jung said. “The girls played really good defense and got some really good hits today. They did a really good job controlling their own destiny.”

“They did a really good job controlling their own destiny.”

Shi also felt that the team delivered a great performance against Balboa. “We actually did really well. It kind of surprised me, since our warm-ups were bad,” Shi said. “We played as a team, we worked as a team, and even the players that never really played, got kills and covered the tips.”

The team also felt their team dynamic improved from this match. “Everyone was being supportive of each other, whether we were on or off the court, and everyone was cheering for each other, which brought a positive vibe to the game,” junior middle blocker Kris Hui said.

For future matches, the team hopes to improve on its concentration. “I think we can improve on staying focused during the game, because sometimes when we lose our focus, the other team starts gaining on us and we just can’t come back,” Wong said.

The Cardinals will take on the Wallenberg Bulldogs on Wednesday at 5:30 at home for the first playoff game of the season. The winner will advance to the championship game on Nov. 14.