Boys’ Volleyball Looks to the Future, following O’Bryant Game

Jessica Li contributed to this article

All photos taken by Jessica Li

Golden Tornado Boys Volleyball nearly had a perfect season last year, finishing 19-1. The one damper to their record came on the road against the highly ranked O’Bryant Tigers, which is who they faced on Thursday, April sixth.

Despite a solid fight, Malden would fall to the Tigers in just three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-18, and 25-22. Although the result was a bit disheartening, the game was quite competitive. It showed that the loss of four valuable seniors from last season would not hold the team back

“Going into it, we knew they were going to be a good team,” said senior Kevin Lin. “They competed last year with our seniors who were unbelievable. Even though we lost, we came out of today knowing that we competed with a top-five team in the state.”

Senior Timothy Du agreed with Lin, mentioning that “the scores were close” and that the team “got out to big leads” during the game. “Last year’s team is left in the past. We are a new group that has to come out and represent Malden.” After the team’s performance, Du’s statement has proven true.

The game began with an O’Bryant serve that went far out of play, giving Malden an early lead. Then, two quick points followed for the Golden Tornados. Aiden Tham delivered a serve that the Tigers’ libero couldn’t handle, extending the lead to four. Although O’Bryant got back with a point, Jason Li slammed through the block to take their fifth of the game. Victor DeSouza then served into a point before the Tigers went on a massive run to take the lead to 10-6. In response, Edward Mei came up with a smash to close the gap to one. A violation and later a kill gave the Tigers a 15-11 lead before a Malden timeout. 

                       Team celebrates a good play. 

O’Bryant added a few more after the stoppage, bringing the score to 19-14. Ethan Chen faked out the opponents with a surprise set for a point. Adin Chen would do the same into the back corner. Eric Mei served out, extending the Tiger advantage to 23-19. A missed serve gave Malden the ball back at 23-20, but an unbelievable slam came from O’Bryant’s middle hitter putting them just a point away. A double hit ended the opening set at 25-20.

The Tigers scored the first point of the second set, but Tham shook it off and responded with one of his own. Quickly, Malden found themselves up 4-1 in the crucial set. Eric Mei rattled off two thundering kills to bring the Golden Tornados a 6-2 lead. O’Bryant answered with a few points of their own to tie the game at 6. A few more points were exchanged, but the Tigers pulled out to a 13-9 lead, forcing a Malden timeout. 

Still, momentum would not change and the advantage grew to 18-12. DeSouza had a great block to end the run, allowing the Tornados to take three points of their own. A few mistakes allowed O’Bryant to jump out to a 24-18 lead. A strong kill ended the second set, putting Malden down 2-0.

The Golden Tornados started the crucial set in style with a 4-0 run before Tham served out. The away side kept fighting, bringing a 7-1 advantage. They eventually lost the momentum, which allowed the Tigers to score four in a row. For the first time that night, Malden was the first team to ten points. Adin Chen fired back at a Tiger rally with a hard kill. O’Bryant took the lead for the first time after a few violations but Tham’s finesse shot tied it up at 13 each. Both sides fired point after point until a timeout settled things down at 16-16.

Senior Eric Mei aces on O'Bryant. 

Malden called another timeout after the Tigers snagged an 18-17 advantage. After a long break due to a rotation dispute, the Tornados equalized the score at 20 each. But yet again, O’Bryant rallied off a few points and the match point was in their favor for the third time. A Tiger block ended the game at 3-0, the Golden Tornados’ first loss of the season.

Coach Daniel Jurkowski reflected on the game, commenting that the team “played very well in spurts.” They just needed to be more consistent throughout each set. “The defensive effort was there, which kept us in the game versus the high-powered offense of OB.”

Junior Ethan Chen reflected the overall sentiment of the team - that of staying hopeful. “This is our third game—it’s going to be our toughest game of the season so far. As a team, we will improve to become on the same level as them. We’re in the same league as them; they’re only about five rankings higher than us. We’re right there. Malden is right underneath them.”

Senior Jason Li also voiced his thoughts, “I still think we have as much talent as any other in our state and county. And I think we can still compete with the higher levels and we proved that today… Everyone's always going to be nervous, especially in their first year, but I think as we keep playing, we're going to get more confident. And deeper into the season, we'll be ready for States.”

Senior Aiden Tham echoed this sentiment, “I knew coming into the season that we could play with some of the best teams but we are a young team. A lot of our guys are first year varsity players. So it's really early in the season, third game, we'll fix it, we'll be one of the top seeds in the state.”

The Golden Tornados prepare themselves for the competitive, one-time match with O'Bryant, huddling and swaying together before jumping and cheering.

Junior Alex Martins, one of those first-year players, said, “I know we only play O’Bryant one time this year, but every set we were definitely very close, even the last set, it was very close.”

Senior Timothy Du upheld this, “I think it does prove that we can hang with the best in the state because the numbers were so close. And we were really close to beating them. If you think about it, every time a new set came we were always up by at least five so I think it proves that we're still a really good team. We are also a new team. And last year's team is in the past. We are a new team to still represent Malden as the best.”

Lin commented, “Going into it, we knew that they were a good team, they have the same roster from last year that competed with our seniors that were very good. Going into the game, we knew we could compete and knew that Malden was still a good team. So, we're not satisfied with the loss but we still went away knowing that we competed with a top 5 team in the state. But other than that, we are getting ready for states. We know the teams up there are going to be at that level. It was good preparation to see that teams out there are tough and we have to play good to play against them.”

He continued, “We definitely showed we can put up a fight against top teams. We made a few mistakes that if we fixed up, we could compete with a lot of the teams. I think we can compete with a lot of the top teams in the state and actually beat a lot of the top teams in the state.”

Junior Victor DeSouza elaborated on one of the areas that he thinks could be improved personally: “the timing of my block and the closeness of my block because just like any wall, if there’s any gaps or holes between your defense, it breaks down easily.”Jurkowski commented, “we are disappointed with the result, but I was encouraged by our effort and competitiveness against one of the top teams in the state.”

Junior Kauan Da Silva, another first-year player, remained confident in the team’s performance and potential. “The team played really, really well overall. There were some mistakes that we made here and there,” he noted, before representing what every interviewee shared: “but if we play how we played today against other teams, we’re going to sweep through the GBL.”

Players clap and high-five each other, celebrating gaining a point.

Du ended on a positive note, saying, “It definitely is mental toughness because when the games are closer to ending, the pressure is definitely on more. And then, the mental gets really bad because people don't want to mess up. They don't want to let the team down. They don't want to disappoint the coach. But I think something that we did really good today was staying focused and not letting it get to our heads.”

According to Chen, communication could be worked on, as well as tightening up on defense. “Blocking has to be there. You have to be cognizant of where the ball is at all times. Stop being afraid to swing.” Moving forward, his goal for the rest of the season is to “win every other game!”

Following their loss to O’Bryant, Malden’s Boys Volleyball has their eyes set on dominating the rest of the season and winning a GBL title.

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