By Jeremy Balan
In the 16 years that the Academic Athletic Association has featured boys volleyball, Galileo Academy has never won a league championship, but head coach Mark Huynh knows a little something about breaking championship droughts.
In 2009, his first year at the helm of Galileo’s football team, Huynh led the Lions to a AAA championship, breaking a seven-year drought.
This spring, he may have the horses to break another streak, after the Lions upset defending champion Lowell 25-21, 25-19, 25-21 on Thursday at Galileo Academy.
The Cardinals (2-4, 1-1) are a markedly different team from last year’s, so the win wasn’t a total shock, but Huynh knows there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome.
“I expected a challenge, and we were ready for five [games]. It was a surprise,” Huynh said. “I still think Lincoln is the team to beat. They should have won the championship last year, but Lowell came back and beat them. When we play Lincoln, we’ll really know how good we are.”
The Lions (7-2, 2-0), who are without a senior starter, were led by juniors Alan Tse and Jacky Peng. Peng had a match-high 11 kills and Tse added six, to go along with three aces and two blocks, but the pair combined for 10 kills in the first game, which opened up opportunities for other hitters.
“We tried to use the easy plays they gave us and not make mistakes,” Peng said. “There are still a lot of games to play, but it’s not a bad start.”
On a roster that features just two seniors, the pair of juniors have taken on a leadership role.
“They’re taking leadership and ownership,” Huynh said. “They know it’s their team and we’re excited about this season and next year, with all six of my [starters] still there.”
The Lions’ attack was more than competent, but the biggest issue for Lowell throughout was unforced errors. The Cardinals had 30 unforced errors in the game, including a stretch in the second game where 8 of the Lions’ final 12 points game on Lowell errors.
“A lot of the game is mental, so if you’re defeated mentally, it’s over with,” said Lowell head coach Steven Wesley. “The new guys don’t have enough experience to realize they just need to get over [mistakes] and snap back on the next point.”
Like Galileo, Lowell is very young, and with the loss of key seniors from last season’s team, Wesley is looking for new leaders to take form.
“The team is young, and they play like they’re young. That’s the one thing that’s going to hold them back,” Wesley said. “We had a good season last year, where some people were riding other people’s [coattails]. So it’s time for those people to step up a little. They needed a loss to feel that.”