After joining the varsity team at the end of his sophomore year, senior Matthew Yang was surprised when his coach decided to start him in the final set of the semifinals game in the NorCal Championship against Bellarmine HS. This moment is Yang’s favorite memory from his experience on the MVHS boys volleyball team because of the outcome — the game contributed to the team winning the championship, an achievement that has never happened in MVHS boys volleyball history.
“It just felt great being able to contribute to the team, especially as such a young player for such an important game,” Yang said. “[And then] to go to the championship and eventually win, it just felt so grand, being able to win the highest achievement we could have. Everybody on the team was so supportive and nice, especially the older players.”
From his years in MVHS boys volleyball, Yang learned not only volleyball skills but also the importance of team chemistry, noting that their performances on the court are determined by both hard work and camaraderie. He views team chemistry as an essential aspect of a team’s success — teammates should be able to focus together and trust one another.
Due to the California Interscholastic Federation cutting the season short because of COVID-19, Yang feels disappointed that his team, especially the seniors, was unable to get the opportunity to continue the legacy of the MVHS boys volleyball team. Despite this setback, Yang emphasizes that he has full faith in his teammates to continue working hard and keep up the winning streak.
“I know we have a lot of strong juniors and sophomores [and] I know they have the potential to [keep up the MVHS streak],” Yang said. “They may not have the height MVHS has had [in] previous years, but they definitely have a lot of talent and a lot of heart. Even throughout this [quarantine], even though we know we won't have a volleyball season this year, a lot of them are showing up to virtual workouts that we have as a team, and I can just see from the effort and heart they have for the sport that they'll be able to do well.”
With his final high school season coming to a close, Yang reflects on how volleyball has been the most impactful extracurricular activity he’s done.
“To me, volleyball has always been very important,” Yang said. “It takes a lot of time and effort, and it's not something everyone can do, but I feel like because all the players are so dedicated and everybody has that same drive to win and succeed, even though everyone's so busy with their own schedules, everyone puts in the effort to try to succeed as a team. [Volleyball has] just showed me how important it is to find a good community and to be able to enjoy a sport and enjoy something that takes that much time out of your week.”
For senior William Liou, the hardest part of the early end to the season was that this season would have been his and many other seniors' final opportunity to play competitive volleyball.
One of Liou’s favorite memories of MVHS boys volleyball occurred after he was pulled up to varsity at the end of his sophomore year, when he was put in the Norcal Championship semifinals game. That year, class of 2019 player Gautham Dasari’s injury caused the coach to move around some players, and he ended up starting Liou for a few sets in the game. Liou expresses that the confidence his coach and teammates have always had in him are feelings he’s going to miss from his time on the volleyball team.
“It's just those times when you don't think you're going in, but Coach just randomly calls your name out and believes you're gonna make a difference and the rest of the team on the court also just believes in you,” Liou said. “When I'm back there, serving the ball, just the fact that everyone's looking across the other side of the net and not watching back thinking that I might hit them in the head when I'm serving or waiting to see if I'll screw up, just that absolute trust that I'm going to get that ball over the net and I'm going to do my role on the court, is a feeling that I'll always remember and cherish [from] being on varsity.”
Liou emphasizes that because every member on the team plays a different role, everyone helps improve the team. He specifically notes the unique bench cheers the team had last year that energized not only the crowd but the players on the court as well. Forming these cheers ended up improving the team’s performance and strengthening the bond the players had with each other. In conjunction with this, Liou notes that he’s learned the importance of hard work, both on and off the court.
“You just [have to] love the grind,” Liou said. “You can just tell, the more competitive and the more hard working people are, the more fun the game becomes. That ball that you think that you might be able to get, but it's a bit too far away, versus that person who dives for that ball, and just barely gets the ball up...The people who do the most and work the hardest to get that ball up make the game really fun.”
Even though his final season has come to a close, Liou reflects on the fact that the team had been improving significantly and was starting to get the hang of playing together. He emphasizes that this drive will continue to help the team, despite the general perspective.
“Everyone thinks that [the] Monta Vista volleyball program is over,” Liou said. “But we've proven time and time again that that's not the case. When I was an incoming freshman, everyone thought our program was done… But the program and the offensive style changes every year. And you just have to be willing to adapt and that's what happens in the game of volleyball. The person who adapts first wins.”
Senior Charlie Yi anticipates missing the social aspect of MVHS boys volleyball after high school. Yi notes that his most memorable moments with his team have been the small bonding activities outside of practice, such as grabbing In-N-Out after a game. He feels that this past season demonstrated the team’s capability to win despite having lost a large number of strong players from the class of 2019. Because of this, Yi expresses that it’s his teammates’ job to keep up the varsity streak because the class of 2020 didn’t have an opportunity to.
Reflecting on what he has learned from being on MVHS boys volleyball, Yi notes that he recognized the importance of hard work throughout each season, an idea he may have overlooked when he first joined.
“No one's ever good without putting in the work,” Yi said. “I feel like too often I look at people and just think that they were good because they're naturally athletic, but seeing [upperclassmen] in practice my sophomore year and junior year, it was obvious to me that they put in the work, and that's why they were good.”
Yi emphasizes that the community he has received from MVHS boys volleyball has been especially impactful.
“I think this team is just a really great group of people, people I genuinely enjoy being around,” Yi said. “I understand that we're here to play volleyball but I always felt like our team was a great community [and] the people were fun to be with. It was always a social place.”
For senior Daniel Chang, COVID-19 took away the chance for players in the class of 2020 to be starters. After waiting for nearly two years, excited to emerge from the shadows of the class of 2019, the class of 2020 was ready to be a strong team for one last time.
Chang will also miss out on playing with his teammates, whom he considers not only genuine and reliable friends, but also people he knows he can rely on in the future.
“I think that our energy on our team has this really strong connection, [but we’re not going to have an opportunity to be] able to play with that again,” Chang said. “It's really important to a lot of volleyball players that our connection is really strong.”
Chang’s favorite memories with the team include enjoying Korean barbecue at team dinners. He shares that these dinners gave the boys an opportunity to connect on a deeper level beyond just being teammates.
“[Team dinners] established a friendship that [we] will forever have,” Chang said. “Because of volleyball, we're going to be friends forever.”
As his final year of high school volleyball closes, Chang leaves his underclassmen with the importance of discipline and hard work. He hopes that they can see how each player needs to give the sport their all.
“[Our coach] cared about discipline and how hard we worked and how much effort we put in,” Chang said. “And if we don't put in that effort, and we aren't disciplined, we don't respect our coaches, then you're not going to get anywhere. And that's why we were able to win NorCal and CCS because [of] the amount of effort that everyone put in.”
Following the announcement that the spring season had been cancelled, senior Armond Bigler’s first question was “what [are] we practicing for?” Despite losing the opportunity to make his final volleyball memories during this last high school season, Bigler looks at the pandemic as something to tell his kids about in the future. However, he is still disappointed that he lost an opportunity to grow as a player.
Like his fellow teammates, Bigler’s favorite moments were off the court, mostly at team dinners. However, he also cherishes his time as an underclassman on the JV team.
“When we were juniors or freshmen on [junior varsity], it was nice watching one of us go into play for the first time in the game and scoring a point — we would all go crazy,” Bigler said. “It's because we don't usually play when we're underclassmen.”
With all the bonding MVHS boys volleyball has done throughout the years, Bigler mentions that he will miss the camaraderie of the team.
“Knowing that I have a group of boys that I'm going to go see every day after school that I know have my back, [and now] I don't get to see them every day anymore,” Bigler said. “We don't get to play together. The close friendship that we develop over that season is something that we won't get.”
When he leaves MVHS, Bigler plans to leave the underclassmen with the advice of working both on and off the court and his confidence that they can do whatever they need to succeed. He explains that eating healthy and managing time is the key to improvement.
Despite not getting a shot at winning another NorCal championship, Bigler is proud of the class of 2020 for watching and learning from the class of 2019, as it gave them exposure to the necessary level of competitiveness.
“We were just exponentially getting better as we got more play time because this is new for most of us to be on the court this much,” Bigler said. “But I think we were doing really well together — I think [the class of] 2020 really stepped up and filled the amount of shoes that we could [have after] [the class of] 2019 left.”
Senior Connor Lang recalls a practice in his junior year on MVHS boys volleyball when he was consistently doing well and digging everyone's balls, which eventually earned him the nickname “Code Red,” a title Lang has been called ever since.
Like his fellow teammates, Lang was disappointed with COVID-19 costing the boys their senior year season, as he has been anticipating this season and senior night for the past three years. One of Lang’s favorite memories on the team was winning the NorCal championship against Harker.
“I've never been in a sport where there's not many people watching us play,” Lang said. “And then when we won, everyone [was] screaming, shouting [and] celebrating. It was pretty awesome to be a part of.”
Reflecting on what would have been the 2020 NorCal Championship, Lang was slightly apprehensive about the future of the MVHS boys volleyball, due to the loss of several players who had height advantages. However, Lang retains his optimism toward his legacy.
“On the bright side of volleyball getting canceled, we can't lose a championship if there isn't a championship,” Lang said.