Women’s Volleyball secures strong record and aims for NCS playoffs

Wildcat Women’s Volleyball has start its season strong, with an overall winning record of 11-5.

The Sept. 6 game against California High was the most intense game, not only in the season so far, but also in the past 15 years of Wildcat Women’s Volleyball games witnessed, according to DVHS Women’s Volleyball Coach Jennifer Cincotta.

Cynthia Zhu, one of the three team captains, and senior player Aileen Tang scored the first two points of the game. While Dougherty won the first set, 25-21, Wildcats lost the second set, 25-18.

“I felt some players were nervous,” Tang reflected on the second set. “But we were confident that we would take the game no matter what.”

In the first half of the third set, California High took the lead. A back-and-forth of spikes and blocks resulted in a point for the Wildcats when Zhu tipped the ball over the net. Zhu’s power tip got the ball rolling, and the Wildcats began leading the second half of the third set with a string of successful blocks.

Dougherty won the third set, 26-24, as well as the following set, 25-21. Entering the fifth set, both teams were tied. The stakes were high, but Wildcats focused only on the game at hand.

“The thing about [being] a competitive athlete is you have to learn to play without nerves,” explained Tang.

Dougherty made the crucial comeback in the fifth set. Wildcats were in the lead for a majority of the last set and ended up winning the fifth set, 15-11, and the entire game. The girls defeated one of Dougherty’s notorious rivals, California High.

“Cal High wanted to win,” said Zhu, dripping in sweat among her teammates in their celebratory team photo. “We just wanted it more.”

Wildcats ended the night of Sept. 6 with an undefeated record of 9-0.

“All I feel is a burst of happiness because we lost to Cal in the first round of NCS playoffs last season,” gushed Tang. “But we we pulled through, showed how much fight we had and got our revenge.”

Although the Wildcats lost the following Sept. 8 away game to Monte Vista on a 3-0,  Dougherty vamped up their strategy in their subsequent games against San Ramon Valley High and Carondelet High.

On Sept. 13 against San Ramon Valley High, the Wildcats started and ended the first set strong, 26-24.

In the first half of the second set, a strong spike from the Wildcats resulted in a six pack and struck San Ramon Valley player 14 in the face. Dougherty won the second set, 26-24, and the third set by a significant lead, 25-14.

“The stream of points in the third set tore down our opponents,” junior player and team captain, Shruti Magnipudi said. “It led to an easier win.”

“The third was very lopsided,” Cincotta agreed. “I gauge our success on how we execute, so while the last set was much better, I was actually disappointed in how we played in the first two sets.”

While the Wildcats may not have performed their best in the first two sets against San Ramon Valley High, they did continue their winning streak against Carondelet on Sept. 15.

Although the scores were closer in this game, Wildcats still won three sets back-to-back and ended the night early. Meanwhile, Carondelet’s weaker performance and lack of team unity was demonstrated by the five times their players hit the ball into the audience.   

By the end of Sept. 15, Wildcats maintained an 11-1 record, a strong improvement from the losing record the Wildcats had a year ago. While Cincotta attributes the wins partially to the easier schedule the Wildcats started with this year, she nevertheless acknowledges that the wins are improving team confidence and momentum.

“The girls are starting to realize that being from DV doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful sports team,” Cincotta added. “You can get good grades and kick butt at sports.” 

Moreover, Cincotta acknowledges the hard work from the summer.

“We had strengthening conditionings, they went to camps and there were a lot of open gyms,” Cincotta said. “The girls worked really hard over the summer.”

However, the Wildcats lost their past four games to Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, Acalanes, Monte Vista, and Foothill, changing their overall record to 11-5. Nevertheless, Cincotta’s philosophy to aim for constant improvement still holds true.

“We need to play our style of volleyball and not let another team dictate what we do,” Cincotta said. “We have a goal of making NCS playoffs and advancing beyond the first round. I hope every day we get better.”