Boys’ volleyball hopes to avoid injuries that plagued them last year

March 20, 2022 — by Nikhil Mathihalli and Viraaj Reddi
After bringing in a new coach and recovering from various injuries, the boys' volleyball team looks to make a run at CCS.

Head Coach: Lori Gragnola

Last year’s record: 2-12

Recap: The team limped throughout last year’s season due to multiple starters suffering injuries.

Key Matchups: Mountain View and Cupertino

Star Players: senior outside hitter Andy Tran, sophomore setter Kali Duvvuri

Key losses to graduation: libero Oliver Ye, outside hitter Dylan Li

League: De Anza League

Prognosis: 

After an injury-ridden 2021 season, the recovering team hopes to run back a similar, albeit healthy roster to reach CCS. They started their season with two 3-0 losses against Harker on March 11 and Cupertino on March 16.

Senior captain and outside hitter Andy Tran said the team is confident in their potential, especially with rival schools such as Los Gatos having lost many of their star seniors. While the team did lose graduated seniors outside hitter Dylan Li and libero Oliver Ye, Tran emphasized the team’s “youth” and rapid improvement gives them an edge over other teams.

According to Tran, many current sophomores have gotten a lot better since last year. For example, sophomore outside hitter Eric Norris wasn’t as qualified last year, but is now stepping up to take a bigger role, he said.

Additionally, unlike recent years, there is both a varsity and a JV team this year. Previously, there was only a varsity team due to a lack of participation from underclassmen. As team captain, Tran has needed to coach members of the JV team to prepare them for varsity. 

“We just pick one or two of the players and pull them up to try and get them to our speed,” Tran said. “We’re really trying to refine one player at a time.”

Tran noted that the JV team allowed younger players to gain more experience and attention, allowing them to more easily transition to varsity. Especially with the support of the varsity team, he said that those players will be better developed in future years. 

“For example, we have a young freshman this year on JV, [middle blocker] Ryan Backhus, who is new to volleyball and kind of uncoordinated,” Tran said. “If we’re able to refine him, he should be able to hit even harder and get his timing right.”

Tran said the team has been strengthened by the leadership of new head coach Lori Gragnola, a Saratoga alum who has coached school and club volleyball for 14 years. The previous coach, Brendan Chung, who coached the team for 3 years, left to coach club volleyball. 

“We first thought [Gragnola] had that mom gene in her, where her priority would be trying to get everyone involved vs. trying to win games,” Tran said. “Now that we’ve known her for a little bit, she’s very competitive, which is nice.” 

While Tran said the JV coach Robert Chen, another Saratoga alumnus, is able to establish fundamentals with the overall team, he stressed that individual improvement could only come about with player effort. 

Barring any injuries, Tran is confident in the team’s ability to reach CCS this year.

“As long as none of our starters get injured, we should have a phenomenal season,” he said.

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