The Matador Arena quaked with shouts from both teams and audience as the Matadors and Mark Keppel Aztecs faced off in the first varsity volleyball of the official season. Blowing the Aztecs out of the water 3-0, the Matadors’ cheers drowned out the whole venue, marking a promising start to the league games.
Although the game was a sweep at a glance, each set carried long struggles and a number of court violations for the Matadors and Aztecs. The first set saw the Matadors in the lead initially before facing a few court violations that turned over the lead to the Aztecs. The Matadors stumbled with serve receive in the late stretch of the game, nearly losing the set until they scraped by 25-23.
“I think this was the strongest we stayed mentally because after we’re usually down five points, we would break and stop talking,” sophomore outside hitter Katelynn Ngo said. “But we kept communicating. So then, we were able to come back.”
The second set saw a similar downturn and progression, but this time, the gap was wider and presented a poor chance of comeback with the Matadors at 11-19. However, junior outside hitter Stephanie Loo went on an invigorating serve run, continuously acing the Aztecs with her serves. The Matadors pounced on the opportunity, once again taking the set by a thin margin 25-23.
“The outside having a lot of aces and going on that serve run was really good,” senior team manager Washington Nguyen said. “That helped us stay in the match and win that second set. We were 11 to 19 and we came back.”
As the third set approached, the team was in high spirits, having maintained a constant atmosphere of positivity on the court and sidelines. The two-set advantage was fresh in their minds, and they had no doubt that they would take the third set whether it was a struggle or a breeze. Maintaining their composure, the Matadors took an early lead in the third set as junior middle Shelly Torres pushed their lead even further with several continuous scores earned by her work at the net. The players roared with every point as off-court players began raising their hand with only a single finger outstretched: match point.
“There’s a lot of chemistry going on in here,” sophomore outside hitter Josephine Oetomo said. “It’s really good. It’s really amazing. You don’t see a lot of teams do that out there. It makes you feel like, ‘Aw, my team!’”
The Matadors bagged the third set, securing their 3-0 victory at a final set score of 25-19. Basking in their win, the team knows they have a lot to improve on and a lot more potential challenges to face as they make their way through the season.
“I want them to keep that streak going and improving, consistently improving,” Nguyen said. “I don’t want them to go bad and then improve because it’s like taking a step back and taking a step forward, which doesn’t get you anywhere. I want them to keep taking steps forward.”
The next home game will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 28 against Bell Gardens High School at the Matador Arena.