Boys Volleyball Season

Maeve Goldman, Staff Writer

After a streak of seven consecutive wins, the Boys Varsity Volleyball Team has secured their spot as the co-champions of the New York City Athletic League (NYCAL) and the second seed at the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) playoffs, David Aaron (10)  “Everyone was willing to literally hurl their bodies across the court to get the ball.” 

Bouncing off of their victory against Masters last Friday, the Lions versed the team again on Monday, Aaron said. “It was a tough game with tough sets but we ended up winning 3-1,” he said. “Almost all our sets started a little behind and then caught up.” 

Because the Lions had already played Masters, they needed to adjust their strategy, as Masters had picked up strategies from the Lions, Aaron said. For example, Masters copied a technique called screening — where players block the opposite team from viewing the server — which the Lions had used during their Friday game, Aaron said. “We had to adapt and so when they started screening we just rolled it back and kept on doing what we usually do, which is targeting certain players and weaker areas,” he said. “Our strategy was very in the moment.”

During the third set, the Lions struggled and lost, Aaron said. However, they did not give up, as the Lions persevered to win the fourth set and clinch the win, he said. “We pushed through a few longer rallies,” Aaron said. To win rallies the team resorted to unique tactics such as kicking the ball up with their feet, Aaron said. “We had some really dramatic and exciting saves.” 

The whole team was fully committed to achieving success, Aaron said. “Rowan Mally (12) always has these crazy blocks, Zach Ludwig (11) had crazy serves, and Griffin Klein (12) had a run of eight serves in a row,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Lions faced the defending state champions, Calhoun, whom the Lions had lost to during their first game of the season, Patrick Stinebaugh (12) said. “It was an important game for us even if it wasn’t important for the season as a whole,” he said. The Lions won the game 3-2. 

The game started out slow with both teams making errors such as striking out on serves, Stinebaugh said. To win the second set the Lions capitalized off of their opponent’s mistakes, he said. “We came to life and clobbered them in the second set 25-13.” 

At the beginning of the third set, the team experienced a delay on the court because of technical difficulties with Calhoun’s rotation order, Stinebaugh said. “There was an asterix on the whole set,” he said. The team overcame the hurdle by staying motivated, he said. “Keeping focus wasn’t an issue, we all knew we had to.”

After losing the third set, the Lions came back with vengeance to win the fourth and fifth sets, Stinebaugh said. Although they started the fourth set down eight points, they gradually increased their confidence until Stephen Chien (12) broke the set’s 25-25 tie with a tight line shot, he said. “It was a big moment mentally. We got back in the zone and then closed out the game.”

The victory meant a lot to the team, Stinebaugh said. “We wanted to win so badly so that we could be the best team in the league.”

“I am elated,”  Boys Varsity Volleyball Coach Jason Torres said. “That puts us in a tie for 1st Place in our league,” he said. “They have worked hard for this.”

The win marks a milestone for the Lions, Torres said. “Hosting a home playoff game would be a historic event for the team and the Boys Volleyball Program,” he said, “ This group would always have a place in the history books at HM.”

On Wednesday, the Lions celebrated senior night by continuing their winning streak, beating Lycée Français de New York 3-0, Aaron said. “We took time to commemorate our seniors and their victories from this year and the years before,” he said. “It was the perfect way to end out the regular season.”

The games have given the team valuable experience for playoffs, allowing them to further streamline their strategy, Stinebaugh said. “We have simplified our plays so we are no longer going for things we didn’t have time to practice,” he said. “We play a lot more solid now.”

In addition to learning from opponents, the Lions have begun to adjust to more serious referee styles, Torres said. “The Masters referees called a tight game,” he said. “At state playoffs, the officiates also are stricter to the rules so we have stopped running special plays,” he said.

Before a game starts, the Lions get into the right headspace to play by warming up to a playlist of upbeat rap and hip hop songs, Aaron said. “We then huddle up and chant ‘Lions on three,’” he said. “We focus on encouraging players and keeping morale high.” 

Overall, Stinebaugh hopes to repeat this week’s success as the season draws to the close by championing both the NYCAL and NYSAIS playoffs, he said. “Beating Calhoun was a good sign but we are still underdogs in my mind,” he said. “I’m confident in all the players we are putting out there that we can do it.”