By Justin A. Rice
DORCHESTER — Even though the Latin Academy Girls’ volleyball team won the second set against Newton South on Tuesday afternoon in their own gymnasium, the Lions still had the momentum going into the third round of play.
“They did have the momentum going into the third game and we couldn’t pull it off,” first year coach Phuong Cao said after the 3-1 loss in the quarterfinals of the Division 1 Central/East tournament.
After dropping the first game 25-21 against their No. 6-seeded opponent, third-seeded Latin Academy (15-6) lost to their suburban counterpart 20-12 in the second set before the Lions roared back to win the third set 25-6.
“I tried to call timeout early [in the third game] but we just couldn’t get it back,” Cao said. “They seemed tired in that third game.”
Latin, which fell in the championship of the City Tournament to English High, lost the final set of the Tuesday night’s game, 25-21, to end their final game of the season.
“They are scrappy and have a couple good servers,” South coach Todd Elwell said of Latin. “They should be proud of the way they played.”
In the second set, South (14-6) rallied to tie the game 20-20 with an eight-point run, including consecutive aces from outside hitter Celina Chan. The teams went back and forth the rest of the way before Latin pulled out its only set of the afternoon, 25-23, to tie the match 1-1.
But in the third set South broke out its jump serve and threw Latin off its game, especially because Latin has only seen one other player use a jump serve this season when they played English and they said it wasn’t nearly as consistent as those coming off the palms of the South girls.
Latin senior Phi Lee said the jump serve psyched them out mentally and physically.
“They are hard to predict,” she said. “When it is a jump serve you don’t know when it’s going to get hit and at what angle. When it’s hit from the ground you can look at their shoulders and know where it’s going to hit. With a jump serve everything’s possible.”
But Latin’s defensive style of playing more players back was also giving South fits.
“It’s a different style of volleyball, they only have one blocker,” Elwell said. “Most teams end up moving up a blocker to go tip people. It’s a different style, we’re not used to more people back.”
In the final set, Latin fell down 15-8 before Vanna Tran served a 7-0 run to cut the lead, 16-14. After South went up 23-16, Latin had a 5-0 run to make the score 23-21 before they ultimately lost the next two points and the match.
“It was very encouraging for next year,” Cao said. “It’s a little disappointing but my girls played their heart out today.”
He was particularly encouraged by the fact that after last year’s 16-5 team graduated its entire starting lineup this year’s team managed to win the program’s sixth straight Boston North league title despite the fact that most of the girls were playing together for the first time.
“Three seniors are graduating from the starting team this year,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get someone to replace that leadership.”
Despite the loss, Latin never pointed fingers or got down on each other.
“Our motto is not to have tension and frustration because you take it out and get mad at each other and shut down,” Lee said. “We’d rather encourage each other. Whatever happens on the court stays on the court.”
At one point junior Christina Joseph was bumped by her own player, which caused her to miss a crucial return bump. She came out of the game, sat down on the bench, and immediately started shouting words of encouragement to her teammates.
“I just try not to get down about it,” she said. “Even if we did lose it was still a really good game. We work as a team.
“A lot of JV players were here watching and saw how much we fought. They should take that into consideration for next year.”