NORTHWEST GLENDALE — The Hoover High boys’ volleyball team’s season opener against visiting Mark Keppel on Tuesday couldn’t have been much closer through its early stages.
The Tornadoes had to score nearly 30 points to win the first game, and each squad had a game under its belt as the third game got underway.
Hoover took control over the next two games, however, and nailed down a nonleague victory, 29-27, 21-25, 25-16, 25-15.
“I think they kind of settled down — it’s our first match — and they started playing more as a team,” second-year Tornadoes Coach Deb Cohen said. “They were communicating more and things just started to flow.
“It was nice, you could totally see the difference between the beginning and the end [of the match].”
The Tornadoes fought off three Keppel game points before taking the first game on a kill by senior outside hitter Ben Cha followed by an into-the-net call against the Aztecs (0-1).
“That first game we were struggling a little bit,” said Cha, who notched eight kills in the match. “We had our first-game jitters, but after a while we started getting used to it and we pulled it out in the end.”
The first-game win proved to be critical for the Tornadoes when Keppel capitalized on a run of Hoover errors to take the second game.
A one-point Hoover lead in the second game became a 21-15 deficit when Keppel reeled off a 7-1 run that included two dropped balls, an ace allowed and four Hoover attacks that sailed over the back line.
“I think we had a lot of unforced errors that really gave [the Aztecs] most of their points,” Cohen said. “We need a lot of [work on] passing.”
Hoover trailed, 3-2, early in the third game, but took a 4-3 lead and didn’t look back. Setter David Chung capped the third game with an over-the-shoulder tip for a kill.
Keppel put up little resistance in the final game, falling behind quickly, 3-0, and never recovering.
The Tornadoes led by as many as 12 points twice in the final game.
On the day, Hoover got nine kills from Arua Abnousian, and four kills from Jonathan Zakhary.
Cohen said the victory is a good confidence builder for a team that went 3-9 in league last year and missed the playoffs.
“We’re trying to understand each other,” Cha said, “and that’s helping to facilitate our plays.”