Young girls’ volleyball team endures rough start

October 6, 2021 — by Atrey Desai and Sarah Zhou
Photo by Sanjoli Gupta
Freshman Emerson Pak and junior Lisa Fung dive to save a ball in a scrimmage during practice.

On Sept. 9, onlookers inside the large gym witnessed a flurry of activity at the girls’ varsity volleyball first league game against Milpitas High. After prevailing in a close third set ending 25-21, the team won the match 3-0, bolstered by multiple defensive blocks and a series of opening shot points by co-captains and outside hitters senior Sonia Purisai and junior Lisa Fung.

That win is the team’s only one vs. five losses as of Oct. 6. They are looking to improve their defense in hopes of defeating Cupertino in a rematch on Oct. 21.

The team lost 3-1 to Wilcox on Sept. 16, 3-2 to Santa Clara on Sept. 21, 3-0 to Fremont on Sept. 23, 3-0 to Lynbrook on Sept. 28 and 3-0 to Cupertino on Sept. 29.  

The team, which practices every weekday from 6 to 8 p.m., is still adjusting to new head coach Thomas Ching, which may have contributed to the losing record. Ching, the team’s third new coach in three consecutive years, follows the retirement of Coach Steve Chiou two years ago along with a short stint by former boys’ varsity volleyball Coach Brendan Wang last season; Wang left the team to coach club volleyball.

Players have generally had a positive experience with the new coach, though there have been concerns regarding his inexperience — specific complaints include “an incapability of providing feedback to players and a lack of aggression in contesting bad calls by referees,” traits common in more experienced coaches.

Currently, Ching is working with players on strengthening fundamental skills, such as passing, diving, setting and hitting.

“For the front row players, we are trying to work on staying motivated to block every hit and closing our blocking seams to take the load off of our back row defense players,” Purisai said.

The five-game lose streak has motivated the team to work harder, Purisai said. Coach Ching has begun to work on player-specific drills in areas that he sees need improvement. 

With the current record, some players may feel a lack of motivation to improve certain skill sets. 

“I try to encourage everyone on the court and off and during our water breaks,” she said.

This year, Purisai is the only senior on the team. Other seniors who had previously played on the team, including seniors Brooke Huynh, Lily Yang and Nithya Koneru, decided not to play the previous season due to “COVID-19 concerns, hefty time commitment and personal lack of practice,” Huynh said. The team also lost senior Jordyn Sin, their previous star libero, after Sin moved to Texas earlier this year.

“My parents did not want me participating in a high contact indoor sport during the pandemic, and I just didn’t see the point of returning after not playing for so long,” Huynh said.

Though she misses her senior friends, Purisai is nonetheless excited for the rest of the season.

This year, with an influx of freshmen joining the team, including middle blocker Shreya Raghuvanshi and outside hitters Dahlia Murthy and Emerson Pak, Purisai has noticed a change in the team dynamic, noting that players in different grade levels tend to bunch together, causing a split within the team. The team is currently working on bonding and working better together, Purisai said.

“I feel a bit lonely sometimes because all the underclassmen are already friends [with each other], but I love all of them and think they’re amazing people,” Purisai said.

1 view this week