Dougherty girls volleyball hopeful after defeating Cal High

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Abby Kapur

Dougherty Valley’s varsity women’s volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point.

Dougherty Valley High School’s varsity women’s volleyball team defeated California High School 3-2 on Sept. 13, winning the second game of the league season. The Wildcats hope to carry that momentum to playoffs at the end of the season. 

Dougherty Valley faced Cal High for the first time this season during a home game. The Wildcats dominated the first set with a 14 point lead, but lost the edge during the next two sets. Cal High won the second and third sets with scores of 25-18 and 26-24, respectively. Dougherty rallied to win the fourth set with a score of 25-19, bringing them to a 2-2 set tie with Cal. 

“Our girls were like, ‘No, come on. Look, we already got one [win], the first [set], let’s go. Let’s just go to work,’” Coach Regina Conley said. 

Dougherty picked it up in the last set, winning with the necessary two point lead. Despite the close final set, Conley was encouraged by the team’s playing — especially by the defense. 

“Our defense is what’s going to keep us in matches. [The game] definitely proved that,” Conley said. The defense — we scrapped and we scrambled and we moved and we got things done.” 

In some ways, Conley believes that such a strong defense is necessary to make it further into the league than Dougherty did last year. Last season, the Wildcats won three out of 18 games, ranking ninth out of the 10 teams in the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL). 

“We didn’t do as well as we had hoped,” Conley said. “This is a very difficult, very tough league to play in. We don’t have that big 6’10 hitter that some of the other schools seem to have. We do have some very, very good hitters on our side, but I think defense is what’s going to really keep us in.” 

This year, the team is refining their defense. Senior Sarah Tan, one of the captains, said, “We have a lot of drills this year where we just play six on six and go all out. I think that really helps us with our defense in getting those like hard balls up.” 

But immediately following the game against Cal, Dougherty lost to San Ramon Valley High School and Carondelet High School. San Ramon Valley’s team is ranked first in EBAL so far, with Carondelet coming in at fourth. 

Tan said, “Carondelet was definitely a huge jump from Cal. Even though we do have an improved defense from last season, there’s a lot more that we could work on after that game.”

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  • Coach Conley briefs the Dougherty Valley team during a break between sets.

  • Chloe Owyang and Ariana Chow jump to block Cal’s serve during the second league game of the season.

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On top of defensive drills, Dougherty Valley’s team is coming into this season with a stronger commitment to the game. Senior co-captain Ariana Chow said, “There’s a lot more potential than last year. Everyone seems like they’re wanting to win more and wanting to put that effort into practices and the game.” 

Conley believes that this dedication has improved another key factor in Dougherty Valley’s playing: their cohesiveness as a team, which has slowly built up over the years. Most of DV’s team are seniors who’ve played together for almost four years now, and that experience has allowed the team to develop an unquantifiable chemistry. 

“You can’t teach it,” Conley said. “It’s something that happens when you play together over a long period of time. You find a comfort zone with the people that you play with, that you trust, and you know that your teammate is going to be behind you if you don’t dig this ball. You know your teammates are going to get it. It’s little things like that that make a difference.”

The chemistry isn’t just between seniors. Junior middle blocker, Chelsea Hom, added, “Our team is pretty tight-knit. Sometimes it can be hard with high school seasons, [but] we’re all really close, so it’s nice that we can work together like that.” 

With the most competitive games ahead of them, the team is still preparing for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Conley looks forward to “seeing how much we can progress, how much better we can get, and how well we can work together.” 

To Hom, the goal is more straightforward. “We’re just trying to win more games than we did last year, [and] I think we’re already on track,” Hom said. 

Since last season, the team has risen two spots higher in the EBAL. They’re currently ranked seventh, but anticipate tough matches against competitive teams like San Ramon Valley and Carondelet. Still, the Wildcats are holding onto the momentum they began the season with. 

Tan added, “I have hopes that even though we have less games to play this season, we’ll at least get a lot closer than we did last season to beating a lot more teams.” 

Conley’s end goal for this season is to qualify for the state championships, which will take place in the middle of November, after the league season is over. 

“I’d say it takes three to five years to build a championship team. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think that we’re pretty much on track right now,” Conley said.