Boys’ volleyball focuses on improved  teamwork to help performances

March 17, 2023 — by Andrew Lin and Victoria Lin
Courtesy of Andrew Lin
Senior middle Mateusz Palusinski spikes the ball past the opponents’ defense to score a point.
Despite a rocky start, the team’s improved chemistry gives them hope.

The reverberating blast of the whistle and the cheers of fans punctuated the gym during the boys’ volleyball game against Los Altos on March 10. A missed serve by the Falcons at the beginning of the first set gave Los Altos the momentum to reach a comfortable 7-point lead, but saves by senior libero Nathan Lim and a mix of offense and defense at the net by the middle blockers, especially junior Eric Norris, sophomore Ryan Backhus and senior Mateusz Palusinski, were able to reduce the final set score to 25-21.

Despite the team’s valiant efforts to gain an advantage with junior Kali Duvvari’s reliable setting and players making spectacular dives to save the ball on multiple occasions, Los Altos scored point after point as the ball slipped through the Falcons’ defense. The set ended with the Falcons losing 25-16.

The Falcons seemed to make a resurgence in the third and final set, tying the score with Los Altos several times due to freshman outside hitter Brennan Pak’s unrelenting pressure on the left side of the court. A controversial call by the referee in Los Altos’ favor led the stands to erupt with boos and jeering, but it didn’t matter: The Falcons lost 25-22.

Despite the 3-0 loss, coach Lori Gragnola is optimistic about her team, which dropped to the less competitive El Camino League last year for the 2021-22 season. 

Junior team captain and setter Samuel Kau attributed the loss to their canceled pre-season, which left them ill prepared for their very first league game. 

“This was our first game, so we were a bit rusty. We’ll pick it up though,” Kau said. 

The Falcons beat King’s Academy 3-1 on March 15. They played Fremont on March 17 and Los Gatos on March 22, Palo Alto on March 24, King’s Academy on March 29 and Fremont on March 31.

Gragnola said the team’s main focuses are to make serves and have a sturdier defense. They plan to work more on blocking in future practices. In a half-joking tone, she also joked it would be nice if some of the players could grow a few inches to compete with taller teams.

In addition to technical skills, players said they could work on their own mentality toward games. 

“It can be easy to dwell on the past, but we have to move on from our mistakes,” Kau said. 

Apart from these challenges, the team has improved in other areas. Bad team chemistry, which Gragnola attributed to “weird dynamics between personalities,” hindered the Falcons, contributing to a winless season in the highly competitive De Anza division last year. 

“This year is like a 180,” Gragnola said. “They all get along great. We all are working as a family with two freshmen that we’ve brought in under our wings.”

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