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Things get testy as ’Jackets fall

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Staff
Friday April 12, 2002

The Berkeley High boys’ volleyball team came close to taking another step forward on Thursday, but instead the ’Jackets may have taken a step in the wrong direction. 

After a thorough beating by league leader El Cerrito on Tuesday, Berkeley came back with a strong effort in the first two games against a team more their speed, Encinal. But although they were within striking distance of the first two games, the ’Jackets dropped both, then collapsed in the final game, winning just three points. 

Even worse, Berkeley’s star player, junior Robin Roach, may have reached the end of his proverbial rope during the loss. He played most of the third game with less than maximum effort, clearly frustrated with his teammates’ errors as well as his own. Head coach Justin Caraway called a timeout to calm his star down, taking him aside for a private conversation, and held a team meeting after the match to deal with the problem. 

“There’s some frustration over a lack of help for our strongest player,” Caraway said. “I’ve seen some internal strife coming, but I thought I’d have another match or two before it finally set in.” 

Roach’s frustration isn’t exactly shocking. After winning a total of one game last season, the ’Jackets are again a young, inexperienced team. Although they won their season opener against De Anza, they have reverted back to their form of old since then, dropping three straight matches to ACCAL opponents. While they had no realistic chance to beat El Cerrito, the league’s two-time defending champion, Berkeley could have come out with wins against Richmond or the Jets, teams that aren’t much more talented than the ’Jackets. 

Berkeley led for most of the first game on Thursday, going up by scores of 5-0, 11-7 and 12-10. But the Jets refused to go away, tying the game each time. With the score knotted at 12-12, the teams traded 10 side-outs before three straight Encinal aces gave them the game. 

“The first ace was my fault for changing the return pattern, and it was a solid topspin serve right on the line,” Caraway said. “But the last two were a player just not being ready for the ball.” 

Encinal jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the second game, but the ’Jackets came back with a five-point run to get within a point. But Berkeley would score just four more points in the entire match, falling 15-10 in the second game before falling apart in the final game. 

“We were pretty competitive in the first two games,” Caraway said. “We just made a couple of little mistakes at the end. It’s mental more than anything else.” 

With just one reserve, Caraway doesn’t have a lot of moves he can make when things start to go bad. Thursday’s match was actually one of the better days for Roach’s supporting cast, as Sam Fuller had five kills and seven digs and Ethan Ashley had four blocks. Roach had a subpar game with nine kills, eight digs and two blocks, but he is so clearly the team’s best player that the opposition keys on him, throwing two or three blockers at him every time he gets near the net. 

“It’s tough when you have to lean on one guy to carry the load,” Caraway said. “Hopefully we can resolve some issues in our meeting and be a better team for it.”