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  • Writer's pictureTiago Loures

EAB Volleyball Invitational: Soaring like a Hawk at the capital!

Tournament Rules

The EAB Volleyball Invitational had three games in the group stage, a single semifinal, and a final (or a third place game). The first place in the group phase would face the team that placed fourth while the second seed would play the third. Each game would be a best of three sets, but in the group stage a third set would still be played as a friendly match if one of the teams had already won the first two.

Opening Ceremony

The EABH Hawks led all the participating teams into the court, with exciting music charging up the energy of all schools, along with a lower school EAB student holding an EABH banner. The Hawks were followed by the Avenues Aviators, from São Paulo; the Nations Cougars, from Brasilia; and the tournament hosts, also from Brasilia, the EAB Bulls. The gym was packed with EAB’s entire high school and everyone was eager for the beginning of the tournament. However, EAB’s Student Athletic Leadership Team, coaches, and Athletic Director gave motivational and informative speeches for the student-athletes before any games began. After their powerful words, the tournament began with the EABH boys going up against the hosts themselves, the EAB Bulls. 

Boys Group Stage

The EABH coaches, Laura Malheiros and Jill Vincik, surprised everyone by putting EABH’s captain and star player, Aidan Van Cleef (4), as the setter instead of as the outside hitter. Nevertheless, EABH was able to beat EAB with the pressures of the hosting school’s entire high school watching the game. In the beginning of the game, both teams were very nervous and made various passing and serving mistakes, but eventually the Hawks were able to return to a composed mindset and overcame the EAB Bulls. In their next game against Nations, the Hawks walked onto the court expecting a weak team but soon realized that this opponent had improved a lot since the last time they had faced each other at the volleyball International School Sports League in 2023. The Cougars had very good defense and the Hawks struggled to score against them because of frequent miraculous saves made by the opposing team; nonetheless, the Hawks were able to beat them by 3-0 despite each set being a very difficult challenge to overcome. In the last game of the group stage, the EABH Hawks faced the Avenues Aviators, but both teams had already won both games and thus the game wasn’t as important since the winner would face who came victorious in the Nations vs EAB game. Avenues, during this group stage match, wasn’t as focused and the Hawks ended up getting an easy 3-0 win; however, the other team showed signs that they could be a very difficult team to play against. The Hawks ended up topping their group without losing a single set.

Girls Group Stage

The girls were heading to the tournament as the clear underdog without a single senior and solely a team composed of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders in addition to Lydia Pfile (13), an eleventh grader. The girls played their first game against the EAB Bulls and beat them in a very tough match. EABH played exceptionally well with excellent hits executed by both Carol Okano (10) and Julia Barros (17), passes by Mariana Lana (1), and sets by Julia Ribeiro (3), who improved a lot since their last official game last year. The Bulls proved to be a tough opponent with good blocks and excellent passes, but EABH persisted and was still able to beat them. EABH then faced Nations, who was an extremely difficult team to play against because of their organization and center, M. Skaf, who executed excellent hits, blocks, serves, and passes (which is something unusual for a center). The Hawks played a mighty game, but they lost by 2-1 to the Cougars. In the last game of the stage, the Lady Hawks shook off their disappointment from their previous face off and beat the Avenues Aviators. The girls played a solid game and were able to defeat the team with all players playing very well. The girls ended up with the same campaign in the group stage as Avenues, and they would face the EAB Bulls in the semifinals.

Girls Semifinal 

The Lady Hawks faced the hosting school, EAB, in the semifinals. With lots of struggle, EAB  was saving practically every single hit while the girls struggled to save tips that were easily falling in the middle of the court. Nevertheless, the powerful hits by Julia Barros (17) were able to keep the Hawks in the game and take the game to the third set with a tie. In the tie-breaking set, the crowd was cheering loudly with the boys volleyball team yelling their songs and the EAB crowd cheering for their team. The Lady Hawks, who had two eighth graders in their starting lineup (Bianca Birman, 11, and Carol Okano, 10) displayed tremendous effort, but it was not enough to overcome the Bulls and their tips. 

Girls Third Place Game

In the game competing for third place, the Hawks faced the Avenues Aviators. The game wasn’t very tough and the Aviators were clearly low spirited due to the turnaround that happened in their previous game; they were beating the Nations Cougars by a set but ended up losing the game. Because of their low energy and a phenomenal ability of the Lady Hawks to shake off their previous disappointments, the Ladies were able to beat Avenues and conquer third place in the EAB Volleyball Invitational. This achievement represents how bright the future can be for the EABH girls team who got a bronze medal even though they had an extremely young roster.

Boys Semifinal

The boys played their semifinal game against the Nations Cougars, who in the group stage proved to be an extremely difficult team to play against. The Hawks started the semifinal with their outside hitter, Tiago Loures (5), struggling with his hits, but eventually he was able to shake off his mistakes and started playing a lot better. The same happened with the Hawks’ team as a whole since they got off on the wrong foot losing the set at beginning but ended up pulling a comeback and winning it. In the second set, the Cougars played extremely well with their outside hitter, who was named Peter, pulling off some exceptional saves, and because of this, together with lots of passing mistakes from the Hawks, the Cougars were able to tie the game and make EABH lose their first set in the tournament. In the third set the EABH coaches decided to return to the original roster and the Hawks were able to win the game despite Nations having momentum from winning the previous set. After a difficult game against the Cougars, EABH was able to win the semifinal match and head to the finals, where they would go up against the Avenues Aviators for first place.

Boys Final

In the fight for the gold medal, the boys started off quite nervous and were losing the set by 11-3. Nonetheless, the boys returned to their usual mindset and ended up winning the set displaying an impressive comeback. In the second set, the Avenues coach changed their strategy and the team started tipping the ball and exploiting the Hawks’ block. Because of this, EABH struggled a lot with their passing and ended up losing the set to the Aviators, making the game head to the third set. In the final set of the game, the Hawks were able to handle adversity and keep a calm mindset after a loss by handling the pressure of the situation and always staying ahead of the Aviators in the set. Everyone was playing their game, keeping the game simple (as the EABH captain Aidan Van Cleef likes to say), and the Hawks were able to beat the Aviators and take the trophy home.

Closing Words

The EAB Volleyball Invitational was very successful for the Hawks without any display of arrogance or misbehavior off the court and excellent performances on the court. The Lady Hawks played extremely well and despite  only getting a bronze medal, they performed exceptionally for a team full of young players. The boys on the other hand were able to lift the tournament’s golden trophy and gain lots of experience, which will be fundamental for them to have a chance at winning this year’s ISSL, and potentially Nationals, which will be hosted at EABH and will have Daily Hawk coverage. Additionally, both teams were able to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, coming back from the tournament stronger than they were before, fostering hope that this year’s ISSL will be just like it was the year prior: a victory in volleyball for both girls and boys

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