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The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Boys volleyball: Living up to a legacy

In the climactic moments of the 2020-2021 volleyball season, team captain John Legaspi leapt skyward.
OVER THE NET The boys volleyball team, led by co-captains Nieco Erasmo and Devin Brown, has led a fairly successful season with their overall score of 13-17, achieving fourth place in the Valley Mission League.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the June. 2023 print edition of The Mirror. This is an uncut version.

His strike pierced the defense, landing the game point and solidifying the squad’s victory as Los Angeles City Section Division 1 Champions.

The explosion of cheers that followed could be heard throughout the field, as sophomore Nieco Erasmo watched in awe. The team’s boundless jubilation marked their most significant athletic achievement in their high school careers.

“It was definitely a really gratifying moment, especially because other than two people, the team was entirely seniors,” Erasmo said. “It was also that coach’s last year, so it felt like a really good goodbye.”

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Erasmo now leads the varsity team with co-captain Devin Brown. They have bold visions for the team’s future, but an immediate repeat of the City Championship is currently off the table.

Every season culminates in the Los Angeles CIF Championships, where teams earn the opportunity to compete against higher-level opponents. Making it to this stage can be the key to bringing home the coveted Championship title.

“That season, everyone wanted it,” Erasmo said. “But now, most people on the team are just going through the motions.”

Fellow varsity player Gursewak Singh, a two-year member of the team, is no stranger to longing for that title.

“Even last year, I would always think, how would it feel to be a finalist of that level?” Singh said. “I’ve always wished to have gone there, but we just couldn’t. We did the best we could.”

Ending the season on a high note, the Wolves rode a 7-5 winning streak to secure fourth place in the Valley Mission League, trailing closely behind 8-4 Reseda.

According to Erasmo and Brown, the contrast between this year’s volleyball team and the 2020-2021 roster lies in commitment and discipline. 

“The team this year is not as focused,” Erasmo said. “We had a first-year coach along with a lot of first-year players, so a lot of people just don’t know how a sports team goes. They don’t understand the concept of seniority. They expect playing time rather than trying to earn it during practice.”

Their stability took a hit mid-season when first-year coach Miguel Morales left for a position at another school. This unexpected departure paved the way for Coach Miguel Becerra, who, despite stepping in to help the team, took a more passive approach. It was then that Brown and Erasmo assumed the reins of leadership.

Last year, Brown was a varsity player; this year, he shares the captainship with Erasmo. His role expansion has him assisting Erasmo in capacities typically reserved for a coach.

“This year, especially with our coach being a little more hands off, I’m making more practice schedules while the coach is going along with me and adjusting to my ideas,” Brown said. “As a captain, it’s definitely my job now to give notes to certain players, so when people mess up, they have to ask me what they’re doing wrong and I have to fix it.”

Striving to be exemplary leaders, the co-captains maintain constant communication about practices, games, and team issues. Their solid partnership offers a platform for resolving any unique challenges that arise.

“Having a co-captain makes both of us feel more grounded,” Erasmo said. “Being a solo captain makes you feel like you have all the responsibilities of the team, like everything is your fault. But having a co-captain keeps me composed.”

Echoing this sentiment, Singh attests to the positive impact the captains have on the team, expressing gratitude for their dedication and hard work.

“They did their best, and they earned their name to be called captains because they did try to bring everyone together and organize practices and drills we did,” Singh said. “I feel like we’ve gotten better because of them.”

However, even with dedicated leadership, conflicts inevitably occur. A poignant instance Brown recalled involved a varsity player becoming noticeably unmotivated mid-season. Their minimal effort resulted in reduced playing time, which left them puzzled.

“As captain I’m not going to let them fall apart, and I’m not going to let that slide because it’s disrespectful to the team, yourself and the captains,” Brown said. “If we’re putting in all this effort, where’s yours? Sometimes they expect that playing time even if they’re not putting in that effort, but you have to call them out on it and remind them that nothing is guaranteed.”

Other players saw how this lack of effort affected the team and their dynamic, including Singh. 

“I feel like even though there was a captain and co-captain, there wasn’t leadership or respect for leaders on the team,” Singh said. “Everyone just wanted to improve on themselves, rather than improve as a team. We made more improvements towards the end of the season, but it should’ve been built earlier on to develop those habits.”

As the season wore on, even the captains sensed their own commitment waning.

“This year, I had to ask myself what my priorities were,” Erasmo said. “I think this is the first year where volleyball has definitely taken a step back in my life. With all the other senior activities, and maintaining classes and college applications, I just told myself that I’ll still try, but I’m not going to make that same effort that I made last year, that extra step.”

Despite his impending graduation, Erasmo’s determination to better the team remains unshaken. Both he and Brown are formulating strategies to extend their winning streak into the next season.

Focusing on volleyball fundamentals is seen as a key area for improvement.

“Passing is the hardest part of volleyball, so a lot of new players don’t really understand it,” Brown said. “It’s kind of a big reliance on me and the more experienced players to do the heavy lifting when it comes to passing. If we could get more players to understand passing, and how the platform and your hands work, it’s the only hard part of volleyball. Once players get that down, we should be a better team.” 

In addition to honing skills, accelerating the pace of their practices to mimic a challenging game environment is another point of improvement Erasmo envisions.

“I think running faster sets, passing and keeping the ball up on offense would definitely help us a lot, since we’re not the tallest,” Erasmo said. 

Looking forward to his senior year as the sole captain, Brown harbors hope. He radiates positivity about the game and his players, driven by his unwavering faith in his team. His strategy involves encouraging his teammates to expand their horizons. 

“I’ve been encouraging my teammates to go to volleyball clubs,” Brown said. “It pushes people to get better. Practicing outside of school makes you better. If they go to different clubs, they can take what they learn from different people to our team. They can be in a different environment and learn from that.”

Above all, fostering robust relationships between teammates emerges as the most significant solution, which Erasmo emphasizes.

“I try to be friends with everyone and have everyone be friends with each other,” Erasmo said. “We have to foster an environment that makes teammates comfortable and have everyone be friends because that chemistry takes the team to the next level.”

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About the Contributor
Selma Timpers
Selma Timpers, Sports Editor
Selma Timpers is the Sports Editor for The Mirror. She is a junior in her first year of journalism. Besides writing articles, she enjoys playing soccer, reading books, and listening to Phoebe Bridgers. Selma is the President of the French Club and spends her free time babysitting. She is passionate about equal rights, the mental health of athletes, and women’s empowerment. Selma plans to attend a four-year university in France but is unsure what to major in. She’ll let you know when the time comes.
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    MoctarSep 13, 2023 at 3:25 pm

    Wow i really like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!