Young team going through tough ‘rebuilding year’
Last season’s Berkeley High boys’ volleyball team posted a respectable 6-6 mark in the East Bay Athletic League. Fifth-year coach Justin Caraway knew that this season would be a bumpier ride, also known in the sports world as a “rebuilding year.”
Not only did the Yellowjackets move into the newly-formed, ultra-competitive Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League, but the team also lost five of its six starters to graduation at the end of last year.
“I have no experience on this team,” Caraway said. “I knew coming in that this would be a rebuilding year.”
Caraway added that without a junior varsity team to act as a training ground for his varsity squad, it’s difficult to piece together a team with experience. Sophomore setter Robin Roach is the only returning starter from last year’s team.
A strong De Anza team defeated the inexperienced ‘Jackets 15-4, 15-2, 16-14 Tuesday afternoon in Berkeley. The Dons took just over 35 minutes to win the first two games, but Berkeley stayed competitive in the third and even had multiple opportunities to avoid the sweep. The loss drops Berkeley to 0-11 overall and 0-1 in the ACCAL.
Game Two was tied at 2-2 when De Anza’s John Lahip took control. Serving from the near side, Lahip recorded 12 straight points to give the Dons a commanding 14-2 lead. A Berkeley side-out stopped the run, but De Anza quickly regained possession and closed out the game on the next serve.
“We spend 80 percent of our practice time serving and passing,” Caraway said. “The fact that we’re not able to do it effectively in the match is disappointing.”
Berkeley controlled much of Game 3 after De Anza opted to play its reserves. The ‘Jackets jumped to an 8-3 edge behind a string of well-placed serves by James Larson. Berkeley led by as many as six, at 14-8. But after the ‘Jackets squandered three game points, the Dons went on a tear. De Anza scored the last eight points of the game en route to a 16-14 victory.
“We played better in the third game,” Caraway said. “We were mentally in the game enough where we could make it competitive.”
But the coach wasn’t completely impressed with his team’s lackluster performance.
“Are there teams in this league we can beat? Probably,” he said. “But with the way we played tonight, not a chance.”
And there’s also that pesky problem of inexperience that undoubtedly played a part in the ‘Jackets inability to close out the final game.
“A lot of these players are first year players,” Roach said. “We’ll learn a lot from this season and will be better next season.”
Caraway agrees: “The encouraging thing is that they’re young,” he said. “We should have a solid team next year if everyone comes back.”
Berkeley plays at Encinal on April 5 before taking a week off for spring break.