Boys’ volleyball triumph over Gunn in first league game

Arthur Wu and Benjamin Grimes

In the first league game of the season, the Palo Alto High School varsity boys’ volleyball team (1-0) crushed the Gunn Titans (1-1), 3-0, Friday night away from home. 

Coming off a 3-0 win against Menlo-Atherton, the Vikings went into the crosstown rivalry league match feeling confident, according to head coach Ed Yeh. 

“We had a scouting report done and we were pretty confident coming in,” Yeh said. “The quality of our team is extremely high this year, and everybody has really solid skills so we should be able to do a lot of damage [this season].”

According to senior outside hitter Owen Rice, the Vikings were looking to enjoy their first game against the familiar matchup with the Titans. 

“We know Gunn and we’ve come to Gunn many times over the years, so it’s just going to be a friendly kind of rivalry,” Rice said. “We just really wanted to come in, have fun, and get a taste of what the competition could look like.”

The Vikings started the first set strong, with a quick kill from senior right-side hitter Evan Passalacqua giving Paly the first point of the game. From there, Paly took control of the game, with several early dominant spikes from Rice and Passalacqua. An ace from freshman outside hitter Julian Hong put the Vikings up, 12-6, with Rice closing out the first set with a powerful kill on the final point, 25-16. 

“We came out of the first set feeling pretty confident,” said junior setter Calvin Wong. “We knew Gunn wasn’t among the best teams in our league, but we still didn’t want to give up any easy points and just kept pushing forward.” 

The Vikings started off the second half with a series of aces from Wong to put the Vikings up, 5-0. Wong, who ended the match with 10 aces, said serving is something the team has been working on.

“We have definitely been working on our power serves, and we are getting better and better at serving every practice,” Wong said. “There’s been improvement from everyone.” 

The Vikings continued to dominate the set, with multiple consecutive points from Rice and freshman right-side hitter Arun Tamura giving the Vikings a substantial lead and an ace from Hong to close the set, 25-11. 

According to Rice, teamwork and accurate assists helped the Vikings control the second set. 

“Our passing was spot on today, and we had a lot of good moments of transition,” Rice said. “That’s something I’m really proud of.” 

The third set mirrored the trend of the first two sets, with Paly dominating the pace of the game. An early ace from sophomore libero Mateo Lisi put the Vikings up, 7-3, which was followed by a streak of strong aces from Rice. Wong, who ended with 24 assists, continued to set up Rice and Passalacqua for easy kills, shredding the Titan defense. A final kill from junior defensive specialist Cruz Norte finished off the set, 25-14. 

According to Rice, despite the 3-0 win, it’s still early into the season and the Vikings are still looking to develop.

“We can always work on communication and maintaining consistent levels of energy on the court,” Rice said. “Then have that carry over into consistent plays and actions.”

According to Yeh, the game gave him confidence about the team’s performance heading into the season. 

“I try not to compare; every year we have good players,” Yeh said. “But knowing the competition we have and relative to the competition, I think we will do very well this year.”

“I just think it’s going be a great season,” Rice said. “I’m really looking forward to it. [There are] a lot of good teams out there, but I’m just really excited to have the people we have on our team right now and see where everyone goes.”

The Vikings will play Santa Clara (0-1) 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at home.