Girls varsity volleyball team looks back on the bittersweet season

Abby Kapur, Sports Editor

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  • The team cheers after scoring a point in the game against Dublin on Oct. 20.

  • Two of the players block Dublin’s hit

  • Dougherty’s astonished, angry reaction to the referee’s call.

  • Chloe Owyang jumps towards Dublin’s hit.

  • Chelsea Hom jumps to set the ball.

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The Dougherty Valley varsity women’s volleyball team ended the season with a loss against Dublin High School on Oct. 20, placing the Wildcats in seventh in the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL). Though the team had hopes for making the playoffs, this season was an improvement from the previous, in which the team ended at ninth out of the 10 EBAL teams.

This season, Dougherty Valley played 19 games, ending the year with nine wins and 10 losses. Some highlights of the season include the team’s wins against tough opponents like California High School on Sept. 13 and 22, as well as Dougherty Valley’s victory over Carondelet High School on Oct. 11. 

Senior co-captain Ariana Chow said, “One of my favorite memories is probably winning against Carondelet and Cal, because in those games, we really did want to win and it really showed. Every single pass that or hit we did was very intentional and a smart play. It was a really fun, exciting moment. That’s kind of the reason why I like volleyball so much: experiencing those kinds of wins.”

Last season, Dougherty Valley won three out of the 18 games they played. That record included two losses to Cal and Carondelet, respectively. The team came back this year to defeat Cal both times they faced off. Dougherty’s first match against Cal on Sept. 13 ended with a score of 3-2 with Dougherty winning by a margin of two points in the last set. 

“That [game] got me off my feet,” Coach Regina Conley said. “I usually try to stay very calm and collected, but that got me to jump off my feet and do a little jig.”

Two days later, Dougherty Valley lost to Carondelet in three sets, with scores of 25-23, 25-19, and 25-22, respectively. But the Wildcats faced off against Carondelet one more time on Oct. 11, beating the Cougars in four sets. 

“None of our teams have beat their teams before from the years that I’ve been here, so it felt like a huge accomplishment. I felt like all these years of getting better were worth it,” senior co-captain Sarah Tan said.

Along with a stronger defense and a team packed with six seniors, Tan attributed this season’s improved performance to the team’s intensity.

“A lot of the season was just ‘bring the energy,’” Tan said. “That was the epitome of our game. That was the turning point. That determined whether we would win or lose that game. If we lost our energy throughout the game, then that’s why we lost.”

That’s kind of the reason why I like volleyball so much: experiencing those kinds of wins.

— Ariana Chow

One particularly hard loss this season was the match against Amador Valley High School on Oct. 13. Dougherty scored 21 points in the first set, although Amador beat them to 25, and lost the next two sets as well by scores of 25-7 and 25-18.

“That was pretty bad,” senior Ela Erman said. “Amador was the top team in our league, and we almost took the first set, and then we kind of just gave up. This was a recurring pattern I saw, where we would get really close and then everyone would just give up.”

Dougherty Valley also faltered against teams like San Ramon Valley and Monta Vista, losing the two matches against each. 

“It’s like a roller coaster this season,” Conley said. “I can’t explain it. I don’t know why, but sometimes we’re close to the peak of our game, and then other times we fall short. I don’t think that we actually reached our peak, because I think this is really a very strong team.”

Dougherty Valley’s last game of the season was a home game against rival Dublin High School on Oct. 20. This season, Dublin placed fifth in the EBAL. Like Dougherty, Dublin’s team had also lost to Foothill and won against Cal and Carondelet. Unlike Dougherty, Carondelet had pushed Dublin to five sets in the game on Sept. 22, while the Wildcats had won against Carondelet in four. That slight difference, as well as Dougherty’s senior night celebrations, boosted the team’s morale going into the last match. 

“I went in there with pretty high hopes,” Tan said. “I feel like we were a pretty evenly matched team and we were pretty neck-and-neck.”

Yet the game proved more difficult than expected. The Wildcats lost the first two sets with scores of 26-24 and 25-23, respectively. In the third set, Dougherty gained an edge and won by six points. But as Dougherty’s defense scrambled to block serves from Dublin’s hitters, the referee gave Dougherty a yellow card and frequently called doubles on what the Wildcats thought were legal hits.

“It was frustrating,” Conley said. “All that stuff takes away from [the] momentum [and] it just didn’t make sense. I’ve never had refereeing that bad before. It was terrible. I was really upset about it, really upset, but I didn’t need the girls to be upset about it. I needed them to just focus on the game.”

But the Wildcats didn’t regain their momentum, and their season ended in the fourth set with a score of 25-16, losing to Dublin. 

“We were evenly matched with Dublin,” Conley said. “We beat the same teams. We lost to the same teams. So it was a 50/50 at that point, anyway. I just think that we weren’t as consistent as we needed to be in order to win that match.”

Still, the team didn’t let the last game’s loss define the entire season, which was a significant improvement from the last.

“We definitely won the most games this season out of all the seasons I’ve played, so I feel like that was definitely a huge plus,” Tan said.

Even though the season didn’t go as well as she hoped it would, Conley looked past the loss to appreciate the work that the team put in the past few months. 

“One of the things that we always talked about was making sure that you’re leaving it all on the court. As long as they do that, as long as they work hard, as long as they feel like they’ve given it all they have, there’s nothing to feel bad about or be ashamed about,” Conley said. “You’re going to do the best that you can do.”

The loss against Dublin marked the end of Dougherty Valley’s season and the end of the seniors’ high school volleyball careers. The team said goodbye to six seniors: Ariana Chow, Lilia Kowssari, Sarah Tan, Kayla Ocampo, Ela Erman and Arpita Pandey. 

“At first it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get all these gifts and this whole stash and I feel like homecoming queen or something like that,’” Tan said. “But after the game, it started to hit me. My last school game. I wouldn’t be playing [for the] school anymore. I wouldn’t be playing with these people anymore, either. I still think it [hasn’t] fully hit me yet.”

Chow also felt a similar sense of disbelief, knowing that her last season had ended.

“It was a surreal moment. I couldn’t believe it was our last game in high school. Knowing that we won’t be able to relive this moment as high school volleyball players is honestly really unbelievable. It didn’t feel like it would end this fast and so emotionally for me,” Chow said.

Some of the seniors had played together before high school, and their experience with each other in club and in school seasons made the goodbye even more difficult. 

“All my friends were [crying], but it just didn’t feel real. Like it didn’t feel like it was actually going to end because volleyball, for all my friends, is such a big part of our lives. Spending hours and hours a week training, playing club and then later [in] high school. Everyone’s a little [bit] in shock,” Erman said.

After the game against Dublin, the seniors wiped off tears to pose for photos, standing in front of their custom banners, surrounded by family. The seniors were still smiling for the cameras as the gym lights started to go out. 

“This is a closing of a chapter for them,” Conley said. “These girls have gotten together for years through high school, and now they’ll be going off to part two of their lives. I just wish them the best.”