OK, so maybe predicting a win over league punching bag Granada doesn’t exactly make Berkeley High boys volleyball coach Justin Caraway Nostradamus. But after seeing the way his ’Jackets dominated the Matadors in a four-game victory at Donahue Gym on Thursday, the coach’s more presumptuous prophecy of picking up a postseason bid is beginning to look less and less crazy.
Determined to win their 2000 home finale, the senior-intensive BHS squad opened a quick two-game advantage on the winless Matadors, before finally showing weakness in game three. With the ’Jackets in a temporary funk, Granada managed to string enough points together to take the game, but Berkeley responded with a big effort in game four to preserve the 17-15, 15-5, 6-15, 15-2 victory.
“In that third game, it was the same thing as always. They got tentative and started making passing mistakes,” Caraway said after the game. “But we outplayed them for the most of the game. We were clearly the better team. We weren’t going to come in here and lose to a team that we haven’t lost two in two years.”
“We could have been a little more crisp, but we’re definitely where we want to be,” added BHS senior Luis Ramirez, who posted two aces to lead all servers.
Keeping with tradition, Caraway worked all seven seniors into the lineup in the final home game. As usual, the BHS victory was keyed by the play of the senior leaders, with D.Q. Li and Mason Chin combining for 25 kills and 26 digs. Another fourth-year athlete, Jacob Kardon, left his mark on the home court, scoring eight kills, 10 digs and a team-high five blocks.
“This team is very talented - one of the most talented I’ve ever played on,” said Ramirez, who transferred to Berkeley High after playing for a high school in Denver last season. “I could tell when I first walked into the gym that this team could go to the playoffs.”
Though Berkeley has cleared its first hurdle in its hunt for the postseason, the most difficult obstacle, first-place Foothill, remains in the team’s path. The ‘Jackets and Falcons face off next Tuesday in San Ramon in a game that would figure to be Berkeley’s most convincing argument for NCS, if it can finally stop its undefeated league mates. Still, the BHS coach admits that beating Foothill is a far cry from beating Granada.
“If we play with this type of emotion, Foothill’s going to kill us,” Caraway said after Thursday’s win. “We’ve got to come out prepared to play. Foothill keeps the ball in play. Just being prepared is really the strategy.”