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Girls’ varsity volleyball looks to three-peat in upcoming season

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By Ariel Yuan

Originally published on September 19, 2014

Junior setter Brandi Wong (12) and junior middle blocker and right side hitter Celina Kong (13) compete in the girls’ varsity volleyball team’s 25–5, 25–12, 25–13 victory over Salesian on Sept. 11. Photo by Amber Ly

The girls’ varsity volleyball team hopes to continue its streak of two consecutive Academic Athletic Association titles with new competition and a new assistant coach.

“Since we are playing each team in our division multiple times, we have to keep things fresh every time we play them, otherwise they will learn our tendencies.”

As of this year, the AAA has divided participating girls’ varsity volleyball teams into two divisions to make the league more competitive. Lowell, Washington, Balboa, Galileo and Lincoln are the only schools in Division One, while the other schools such as Wallenburg, Mission and Marshall are in Division Two. The teams in each division will play each other three times. Lowell’s main competitors this season are Lincoln and last season’s runner-up, Balboa.

“Instead of having to play teams that weren’t on our level like last year, we now have to play hard every game,” senior libero Natividad Manalo said. “Since we are playing each team in our division multiple times, we have to keep things fresh every time we play them, otherwise they will learn our tendencies.” For example, the team may have to vary which players they rely on and change up its strategies.

Junior outside hitter and middle blocker Kris Hui attempts to spike the ball in the Cardinals’ win on Sept. 11. Photo by Amber Ly

The coach and players declined to comment on this season’s strategies.

Head coach Steven Wesley commented on the mental effect the new division could have on the players. “One of the new challenges will be the fact that we have to play a team that we’ve played before, so we’re going to have that mentality of whatever happened the last time,” Wesley said. “If we win, we’re going to think maybe we are going to win again. If we lose, we’re going to think we that we need try harder.”

Juniors outside hitter Janet Lao (15) and right side hitter and middle blocker Samantha Wong (21) work together. Photo by Amber Ly

“If we win, we’re going to think maybe we are going to win again. If we lose, we’re going to think we that we need try harder.”

With only four returning seniors from last season, the team consists of many younger players. “We’re a young team mentally and in all actuality,” Wesley said. “They’re going to need to step up their leadership and their ability to take control of every situation.”

Despite the few upperclassmen on the team, Manalo and senior captain and outside hitter Eileen Shi are keys to the team’s success this season. Shi had 107 kills(compared to the national average of 21.9 kills) and a 0.206 hitting percentage last season. Manalo has 93 digs — a defensive play in which the opposition attempts an attack and a player keeps the ball in play — from her previous two years on varsity. “Eileen is our anchor on offense, and we usually rely on her,” Wesley said. “For defense, Natie is like the glue that holds it all together.”

Kong tries to get the ball past her opponent. Photo by Amber Ly

In addition to the new division, the team also has a new assistant coach, Joshua Jung, a new Physical Education teacher at Lowell. Jung is a Lowell alum and played on the Lowell team during his sophomore and senior years.

After high school, Jung gained experience by coaching various volleyball teams at San Francisco Unified School District high schools. He has coached Galileo’s JV team and last year, and he coached Lincoln’s varsity team while also working as a student teacher. Last season, Lincoln’s girls’ varsity team clinched a playoff spot, sharing an overall record of 12–2 with Balboa and Washington.

Wong goes airborne to strike the ball. Photo by Amber Ly

On Wednesday, September 17, the Cardinals lost their first game to rival Lincoln in five sets, 11–25, 22–25, 25–15, 26–24, and 15–7.

The Cardinals will take on Washington at home on September 19 at 5:15pm in their first Battle of the Birds.

Senior outside hitter Eileen Shi leads her teammates in a round of high-fives. Photo by Amber Ly
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Girls’ varsity volleyball looks to three-peat in upcoming season