October 29, 2018 —
As she noticed a tip from the opposing team, El Camino, junior libero Lauren Hansen immediately dived forward, making a skillful save and barely getting the ball up. Moving smoothly, junior setter Gabby Mandu immediately jumped up and set the ball perfectly to outside hitter Katie Hulme. Hulme, the team’s captain, leaped up into the air and smashed the ball cleanly over the blockers and into the ground. The crowd roared.
This smooth yet powerful play was the result of the time and effort the team put in during the year.
During the Division III playoff game against El Camino at home on Oct. 27, the girls struggled during the first and second sets, losing 25-22 and 25-19, but clawed back and won the next two sets 25-21 and 25-17. They dropped the final set 15-11, ending their season.
Despite moving down from the De Anza to the less competitive El Camino league, players still found themselves struggling early in the season. However, they managed to rebound, ultimately placing fourth in the league and earning a CCS bid.
A large part of the early season struggles lay in the team’s youth since they had only three seniors. Of the remaining players, five were juniors and the rest were underclassmen. The sophomores and freshmen had to adapt to the higher playing speed and competitiveness of the varsity games, Hansen said.
The team’s overall inexperience was a factor in the Falcons’ 3-0 loss against Los Altos on Sept. 11 and another 3-0 loss to Gunn on Sept. 20.
After a string of four consecutive losses to Monta Vista (3-2), Cupertino (3-2), Los Altos (3-0) and Fremont (3-0), the girls rallied back to win their next three games against Santa Clara by the score 3-0 on Oct 9, Wilcox 3-1 on Oct 16 and Milpitas 3-1 on Oct 18, which was their Senior Night game.
Another problem the team had to overcome was the extended absence of their head coach, Steven Chiou.
While Chiou was in Japan and Taiwan for personal reasons, JV coach Chad Kingi stepped in to coach varsity.
Kingi provided the team with different ways to think about certain scenarios in the game.
“Chad’s practice [was] usually more advanced than what coach Steve did,” Hansen said. He made things harder and more strict, but it was really interesting to see his point of view coaching the team compared to coach Steve.”
During practices, Kingi placed an emphasis on combating the problem of serve receiving, a major weakness of the team. The team expects a stronger performance next year as a result of this year’s rebuilding season, which fostered greater communication between under and upperclassmen.
“I think we were on a bit lower level at the beginning of the season, but we’ve actually improved a lot,” said Kingi. “The upperclassmen and underclassmen learned about each other’s habits and got comfortable with each other, enabling them to reach their potential.”
With the large influx of underclassmen this year, many upperclassmen have stepped up to take charge and make the transition smooth. Two key parts of the the team were Hulme and Hansen.
Hansen helped freshman Jordyn Sin with her defense, while Hulme worked on creating team bonds and making sure their plays run smoothly.
“We ended up improving a lot, so by the end of the season, we were having a lot more fun and working a lot better as a team,” Hulme said.
Hulme has been part of teams that made CCS all four years of her time at SHS and will be going on to play at Emory University as a middle