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  • Writer's pictureTatiana Chen

Girls Volleyball EABH v. St.Pauls: The Lions Gash at the Hawks

Prior to the game beginning, there was a lurking feeling of suspense between the St. Paul’s Lions and EABH Hawks. A game in the gym in which the two teams would face each other for the finals was delayed, leaving everyone to fall a little bit out of tradition; the Lady Hawks are full of practices and superstitions that bring them victories and joy, and an interruption of said practices is not desirable. Warm-ups and huddles had to be held outside so that the teams could instantly jump into action once the delayed game ended. Due to limited space, the competitors did warm-ups and pep talks with nearly a meter of distance from each other. With the Lady Hawks absolutely dead serious, their focus contrasted with the light mood that the Lions’ coach was trying to put in place. Songs and children’s games were being played by the athletes which echoed in the hall outside the hangar for everyone to listen, attesting to the clash of strategy and mentality.

The first serve was given to the Lions who sent the ball right above the net. But with the mood the girls were playing in, team captain Marcela Borlido (5) used their play to spike down on the opponents: the Lady Hawks were off to a great start. While getting a feel of the game still, Anna Flavia Escobar (4) missed her serve which was easily brushed off knowing that the team benefitted from understanding the opposing team’s rotation. Now playing strategically, Lady Hawks watched the ball’s movements closely to make sure they were not running unnecessarily or potentially losing points over small mistakes. Mariana Lana (1), starting libero, slowly watched a Lion spike the ball out of the court. It was now Marcela’s turn to serve, which resulted in an instant ace. With a favorable score of 4-2, the Ladies celebrated their lead with a funny dance on the court, touching the ground and then snapping their fingers in the air with much sass. The room was still silent, however, as the audience for the Lions was desperate to flip the game and the Ladies had a passive audience composed of non-Lady Hawk volleyball athletes. With the silence, one could hear the breaths and nervous shoes squeaking on the floor as they shifted around to find the perfect spot to wait for when someone was serving. A single play went on for nearly a whole minute with the anxious environment swallowing the air around them. Bruna Gontijo (16) couldn’t wait any longer and spiked the ball right on the line, scoring another point for the Hawks. 

Despite the heavy yet thin atmosphere, the Lions managed to bring the game to a tie, one so tightly wrapped that it persisted until 7-7. Annie Santos (12) spiked multiple times and Marcela slid around saving the ball from ever touching the ground, but missed serves and witty tips on both ends brought them to the fierce competition. Anna Flávia, like in previous games, attempted to save the ball with her feet when it was far from her body and regardless of the strategy’s success, the dedication was present. The ladies began losing as the Lions flipped the game, which caused Coach Laura to ask for a timeout from the referees. Coach Laura and Coach Jill reminded the girls of their strategies and details to pay close attention to regarding the opposing teams’ weaknesses. After the timeout, Marcela continued diving after the balls that the rest of the team couldn’t reach and quickly got up to spike. A potential foul was spotted by the referee and the team’s captain attempted to negotiate, but she eventually accepted it to not lose points as penalty. The score was now at 8-12, a four-point difference that could make or break the set. Anna Flávia aced the serve and brushed off bad hits to keep their heads in the game, but the points climbed up to 10-16. With the crowd still silent, one could hear every mumble under the players’ breaths. 

Although Summer Lucier (14) aced her serve, the score was now at 13-19. The referee had blown his whistle to count a foul by the Lions but the coach and players instantly began negotiating and fighting off the accusation. To let the game persist, they dropped the subject and went back to the game. Potentially angered, the Lions were playing with simple passes to the other side but the Lady Hawks were still unsuccessful in catching them. Coach Jill began yelling from the bench that the girls were draining their bodies with how they were playing. This pointed to the necessity to breathe and focus on what plays were worth executing or not with such a low score dragging behind. Annie was blocking ruthlessly, Marcela was constantly spiking even from the back row, and Bruna was striking all her hits straight down. However, the Lions were already at 20 points. Annie’s aces and the rest of the team’s sets and spikes brought the set to an end at 17-21. The girls were not shaken up by the loss because they got so close to victory; instead, they were well aware that the second set was theirs to win and that they could take the game to the third. 

The second set began on the right foot… sort of. The first serve allowed the ball to quietly go back and forth along with the movements of the nervous crowd that was also swinging back and forth. Annie and Summer both timed a jump in perfect harmonization and blocked the ball straight down. With the Lions spiking far out into the back of the court, Bruna was twirling and spinning in their air, defending with elegance and precision. Marcela then spiked and made the competitive emotions rise in the Lions once more, since they were initially relaxed knowing that they got a set victory out of the way. Marilana saved the ball with her forearms, which had the entire crowd cheering for her spectacular accuracy. The score was tied at 3-3 and was equalized at 4-4 until Summer broke the pattern with an ace. But with far too much confidence the score went from 6-5 to 6-7: the Ladies mistook a ball for out and missed a spike that went down into the net.

Fear not, however, as with a player like Bruna Gontijo on the team, the game quickly flipped with a strong spike, followed by Annie’s piercing hits. The game tied at 10-10 once again with silly mistakes that always came with EABH taking the lead. The Ladies were under an immense amount of pressure, but, by now, the audience was roaring for a win in this set and for taking the Lions into a third. Julia Ribeiro (3) was subbed in as the perfect setter in that moment for the Hawks. Despite a few of her mistakes which reflected on Marcela’s performance as well, she twisted and turned to maximize whatever passes she had to work with. Julia was sending sets backwards and Marcela was contorting her body sideways to wham it in. At 13 points the game tied once again. With such repetitive tension, Coach Laura passed the ball that came her way, which was very out. This had the Lady Hawks giggling off the weight of a tied set from their shoulders. A terribly controversial move though: the Lions walked up to the referee and began questioning how that wasn’t considered a fault. It was brushed off as they realized the referee would not accept negotiations and that the ball was going out and the Coach was not a player and thus it was not a fault that she touched the ball before it went out.

The game flipped to 15-13 and the Lady Hawks were practically shoving each other around to get in the exact places they needed to be to play. Rotations were varied, which made their communication key. Once the Ladies scored one more point, the Lions called for a timeout. Luckily for them, it warmed up their plays as they walked back onto the court wiping the bottom of their shoes, swiping the line, praying, and trading balls with the NR staff: lucky charms for the Lady Hawks, most especially for team captain Marcela. Marcela’s first served was aced perfectly, but the one that followed went straight onto Summer’s back, something that was laughed off by the team. The score was climbing for both and the Lady Hawks stood at 19-18, two points away from victory but a mere point away from a tie. Coach Laura called for another time-out to make sure that this chance was not lost and that the girls brought back the only gold for EABH this year. Rightfully so, Bruna spiked down, scoring a set point for the girls. Interestingly, the crowd began cheering for one specific person out of joy when the second set began---and one that was not on the court. Joshua Durchfort, who is known to be the punchline of many cheers at NR, had a chant being sung making fun of him, but it was acting as a good luck charm for the girls since they started playing well once hearing that particular song. With the Ladies winning the set and the crowd going euphoric, the mood was brought back up with things looking brighter for the Hawks. 

In the third set, the tiebreakers, every single second of the game counted and the audience stood up from the bleachers to get a closer look. Although Marcela found herself tangled in the net when falling forward after spiking Julia’s pass, Summer and Marcela continued to spike and dive. The score was at 3-1, an incredibly motivating start. Julia served an ace, making the Lions stumble. Their coach called for a timeout, and, while waiting, the crowd cheering for the Lions made it very clear that they were against the Hawks. Negative cheering is not tolerated at these games which nearly led to a dispute between the crowds, but the situation was easily diffused with the preexisting thought that the girls would win regardless of the cheering.

The score had reached 5-2 and the game was going pretty strong until the Ladies missed a single dive. But right after, the Lions missed their chance at scoring a point, opening the opportunity for the Hawks to score four points in a row with the side they played in the court changing between the third and fourth points. The Lions called for another timeout which did not really work since the Hawks continued with their excellent momentum. Annie tipped and spiked while Summer served high. 

When the referee called a questionable foul, co-captain Annie was about to approach the referee, but in the lead by so many points, it wasn’t even worth the try. Marilana once again showed her precision and ability to reach the ball with utmost speed. She saved a ball with her forearm after Bruna and Marcela both dived. Annie had spiked from the back row inching the Hawks even closer to the victory, at 14-6. After a missed serve, however, she bit her shirt and walked back onto the court to try another match point. 

The Hawks scored their final point, bringing the entire crowd running onto the court. After jumping in unison yelling “bi-campeão” (meaning: two-time champion), the Hawks lined up at the net to congratulate the Lions who got up from their despaired collapses on the floor. As tradition goes, the girls finished shaking hands and running through a crowd of people waiting for high fives and increasing cheers. There was a lot of emotion for all EABH players, regardless of their playing time, but most were concentrated on the senior players, shaken up by the final gold being brought home. Annie collapsed on the floor and was met with Coach Laura hovering over her to reassure her that the victory was thanks to her amazing participation. Every player shed tears of contempt after their hard work paid off. The pressure was immeasurable as the entire school was depending on their victory to bring back at least one title from this season of ISSL. With sweat, and tears flying around, Coach Jill instantly halted the parade of emotions by hurding everyone to go to the closing ceremony held in the room next door. Inside, the video had already begun playing, instantly rushing in more of the intense emotions that every closing ceremony at ISSL has. 

The EABH Lady Hawks performed brilliantly and brought back gold for EABH; they never disappoint. Once a Hawk, always a Hawk: and an incredibly proud one.

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