The Threepeat Exploring why the class of 2019 has been so successful in winning Powderpuff

The class of 2019 had just won Powderpuff for the third time in a row, but across the field, juniors’ chants filled the air, “Two-oh, Two-oh, we won hoco.” Previously this year, the class of 2020 had won Homecoming by one point, beating the seniors, who, according to tradition, were supposed to win. This loss was met with tears and anger on the seniors’ side because during their time at MVHS, they had never won a single homecoming. It was a defeat that motivated some, like senior cheerleader Shakthi Elangovan and senior running back Evelyn How, to redeem themselves by winning Powderpuff for the third time.

“I felt it was it just wasn't losing Homecoming, it was more like not really winning anything other than Powderpuff,” Elangovan said. “Some way our class ends up getting screwed over by something. It all just builds up.”

Then sophomore Kaitlyn Zhou runs past a senior in the 2017 championship powderpuff game. Photo courtesy of Maya Schwarz.

Yet it wasn’t just their drive and determination to win which made them succeed time and time again; it was also their Monday, Wednesday and Friday weekly practices during which players and cheerleaders steadily improved. According to Elangovan, the dance had gotten better and more fun each year with the incorporation of increasingly difficult tricks. The number of people participating in Powderpuff also increased every year, this year being the most with 40 cheerleaders.

The team has evolved immensely from their humble beginnings during freshman year, because as How explained, the freshman Powderpuff was a ‘mess.’

1) Then sophomore and coach Jonah Ji hypes up the cheerleaders during a game. Photo courtesy of Maya Schwarz. 2) Then sophomore Evelyn How runs toward the 50 yard line to score a touchdown. Photo courtesy of Maya Schwarz. 3) Then junior Kaitlyn Zhou runs towards an open lane provided by a block from her classmate. Photo by Om Khandekar.

“We didn't really have anyone who was tall who could block balls,” How said. “So then the senior class that year they made four touchdowns from one girl just throwing the ball over our heads. But since then, we discovered what we needed to do.”

According to senior Jonah Ji, who worked as the Powderpuff coach, running plays were especially successful for the class of 2019, and their favorite one involved someone running down the side of the field with the ball. They avoided throwing the ball because few players were comfortable with catching the football within such a short period of time. However, Ji agrees with How and mentions that their first year was more of a trial and run.

“I think sophomore year, junior year and senior progressively we've gotten more organized and more disciplined,” Ji said. “In previous years, we've won because of our aggression to play and enthusiasm to play, while this year was more technical. Our organization and execution won us the game I think that's what we improved [throughout] the years.”

How credits their success to not only the coaching staff, but also the diverse skills sets of the participating players. She mentions that the team is very athletic and included members of the school’s soccer and basketball teams. The Powderpuff team also included senior Kaitlyn Zhou, who plays for the varsity football team and contributed more experience and skill to the team.

Then junior Kiran Gomatam jumps with her arms outstretched to avoid getting her flag pulled. Photo by Om Khandekar.

“I would say everyone [is an important player] because for every touchdown that we've made, it's always because someone's blocking for us,” How said. “So we have that path to run in. Or like like someone's blocking so you can catch the ball. So I think without every person there, it would be impossible.”

How, who has scored a total of eight touchdowns in her Powderpuff career, mentions that she continues to participate each year because of how determined each class is to win and how involved everybody is. Regardless of each class’s determination to succeed, there are usually some set expectations as to how everything would play out. Seniors usually win, juniors usually place second, and so forth. However, the class of 2019 broke this cycle two years ago when they won their first Powderpuff championship as sophomores.

“So sophomore year, it was a big surprise [to win] because [everyone thinks that the] seniors are going to win,” Zhou said. “So sophomore year it was big, and junior year we were kind of expecting it and then senior year it felt like we had to win.”

1) Then junior Satoshi Ueda flips in the air as a part of his half time routine. Photo by Om Khandekar. 2) Senior and powderpuff coach Josiah Figueroa yells directions to his players. Photo by Ellie Kim. 3) Senior Avi Libman completes a backflip in front of his teammates dancing in the back. Photo by Ellie Kim.

Elangovan mentions that the hype surrounding the game and the halftime performance is his favorite part about powderpuff.

“When you're performing in front of so many people, and let's say you get a solo or you're in the front, I feel like the energy [from you] bounces off of the crowd and bounces back to you,” Elangovan said. “Performing or just having that hype is not like a feeling that you normally get.”

Elangovan felt that the hype surrounding Powderpuff was considerably lower compared to last year because the seniors expected themselves to win, which also carried more pressure.

“It's not so much as we're scared of losing, [but] more than like we are gunning for that win and senior year and coming off of two championships becomes a game of ‘secure the win’ [or] ‘protect the title’ rather than go get the title,” Ji said. “So I think it's just relieving after the last game to see like that we protected the title and went for the three peat.”

Zhou remembers this year’s championship game as emotional because of all the penalties called against the seniors. But it wasn’t just the players who felt pressured to perform, it was also the coaches.

1) The class of 2019 as sophomore poses for a picture after winning powderpuff for the first time. Photo courtesy of Maya Schwarz. 2) The class of 2019 poses for a celebratory picture after winning powderpuff for the third time in a row. Photo by Tabitha Mendez.

“As coaches we have to make sure the team operates smoothly and we want execution and [for] plays to go well,” Ji said. “As coaches I think it's pressuring when you realize you have to teach them [the players] a craft that they have to excel in their final year and you just don't want to let anybody down.”

For Elangovan, the team of both cheerleaders and football players succeeded at redeeming themselves on MVHS turf from homecoming. They had achieved the threepeat.

“I would say that [it] was bittersweet, How said. “It sucked that it was our last Powderpuff ever, but at the same time our class was still united and, after Homecoming, it was a good feeling.”

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