By Staff Writer Hannah Chou
Varsity Girls’ Volleyball won the East Valley Invitational Tournament held on Saturday September 17 at Freedom High School. The team competed against schools in the North Coast Section (NCS) league, including Deer Valley High School, their biggest rival in the tournament.
In the championship match against Deer Valley, the team lost the first set 17-25, narrowly defeated Deer Valley in the second set with a score of 25-23, and won the third set 15-11. Their victory against Deer Valley is the first time the Girls’ Volleyball team has ever won a tournament since 2009.
During the practice leading up to the tournament, the players focused on improving their mental strength and trusting the skills they have accumulated through constant practice as opposed to pure athleticism. Varsity Girls’ Volleyball Head Coach Donny Hui said, “We usually try to be athletic and [make mistakes], trying to win on our own as opposed to winning as a team. However, if we depend on our athleticism, we will lose because there will always be another team stronger and more athletic than us.”
At the tournament, MSJ played against Novato High School, Alhambra High School, Big Valley Christian High School, Clayton Valley High School, and Deer Valley High School. The team’s energy and communication was at its highest potential, and every player on the team gave it their all as they faced the current opponent. Among the players, Outside Hitter Junior Michelle Zhang earned the most points for the team throughout the tournament with an average of seven kills per game. Libero Senior Connie Chou also successfully dug many free-balls and hard hits, keeping the ball in play for the team to score, and Setter Senior Cynthia Zhang had many assists, placing the ball in the perfect position for the hitters to score.
Even though Deer Valley was their main rival of the tournament, Hui said that the most noteworthy game of the day was against Alhambra High School. “We ended up winning against Alhambra after being down 0-9,” he said. “That game gave us the confidence to beat Deer Valley in three sets.” However, although the game against Alhambra helped push the MSJ players to win against Deer Valley, the Deer Valley game itself served as the turning point of the entire season. “We felt a big weight off our chest because we [had] just lost to Newark [High School] on Thursday since we were intimidated by the bigger and faster team,” Hui said. The win against their strongest rival also had a positive impact on the players. Co-Captain Senior Aileen Hsu said, “We thought we were invincible in that moment. We felt like we could accomplish anything in the future, and all we have worked for in practice is finally paying off. It established a greater trust in our system and greater respect for our coach and each other.”
Despite their victory, the team members believe they need to work hard to improve their skills and mentalities to prepare themselves for the season, which is almost halfway over. MSJ is currently ranked second in the Mission Valley All-League (MVAL) because of their loss against Newark, and the team hopes to move up to first. Hui said, “Our goal is to win MVALs. We still have a chance, but Logan [High School] is undefeated, so we have to beat Newark [Memorial] and Logan to be tied for first. As for beyond [MVALs], we want to at least get passed the second or third round of NCS.”
Photos Courtesy Hung Chou