By Zack Farmer
Unlike many of Lowell High School’s teams in other sports, the boys volleyball squad was aware that they were an underdog heading into the Academic Athletic Association title game against defending-champ Galileo on Friday night at Lincoln High School.
The Cardinals used that to their advantage and after dropping the first game, swept the final three to beat Galileo 22-25, 29-27, 25-22, 31-29 and claim their seventh league title.
“We kind of knew we weren’t the favorites coming in and I think that fueled us a little bit to push a little harder,” said Lowell head coach Steven Wesley. “Just go for it and there is nothing to lose.”
The win brings the championship back to Lowell after the Cardinals (11-1 in AAA play) missed out last season, watching the title go to the Lions.
“A lot of this was built up from last season, when we lost in the [first round of the] playoffs, and it was really, really tough,” said Lowell outside hitter Enders Ng.
Lowell was one game away from taking the league title, but trailed for much of the fourth and nearly had it get away from them.
But service errors from Galileo (10-2 in AAA play) kept the Cardinals in striking distance and killed the Lions’ momentum.
The third service error of the game sparked a 4-0 Lowell run, which gave the Cardinals a 20-19 lead, their first since the score was 2-1.
“I try to teach them that we play each point all the way through,” Wesley said. “Play it like the first point, play it like it’s the last point. A point is a point.”
Galileo fought back, though, forced four ties in the final moments and eventually took the 29-28 lead after a kill from Jacky Peng.
But Lowell stole the momentum back when Ng collected a kill of his own.
“We got off to a really slow start and [toward] the end, we started playing our game and we kind of warmed up, and it rolled into [the] second [game] and we just played our game instead of being nervous,” Ng said. “A
lot of us have never played in the championship.”
Ng finished the match with a team-high nine kills.
“It’s going to be so crazy when we get back to school,” Ng said. “So excited for that.”
With Lowell at match point, Alan Tse, who was the Lions’ best player all game, hit the ball out of bounds on the right side and Lowell clinched the title. Tse finished with a match-high 16 kills.
Mistakes were a common theme for Galileo throughout the match and the Lions committed 24 service errors. Late service errors by Galileo in the second and third game also shifted the momentum back to Lowell.