Getting out of the zone

She told me I was fine, that I just needed to work out more. She happened to have an open slot for the echocardiogram room though, and would it be ok if she just checked that nothing was wrong, just to be sure?

“Yup, there’s a hole” was not supposed to be a part of this hospital visit. I didn’t wake up at 6:30 a.m. on a late start Wednesday in the middle of my sophomore year to be told that I had a congenital heart defect. I was supposed to be in Spanish class in half an hour, not seated next to my sobbing mother as the doctor drew a diagram of the four chambers of the heart on a whiteboard conveniently located in the exam room.

But while my mother may have been completely shocked, I felt, initially at least, relief. All those years of being the last one to finish the mile now made sense. Of never being passed the ball in PE. Of trying ballet, karate, soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis and squash and never really doing well in any of them. On some level I knew somehow that I was different.

Instead, I focused on other, non-athletic pursuits. That was why I joined El Estoque. It started off like all the other hobbies I had tried, not exactly fun, but something to do to pass the time. Then I joined the sports section.

Due to my forced disinterest in athletics, covering a girls water polo game was my first time attending a school sports game. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it.

But the atmosphere was magnetic. This is what I had been missing out on all those years — the urgency of the players, the excitement of the crowd, the joy of the victory. I finally understood why people refer to their favorite team as “their team.” I was so invested in the game that I felt as though their victory was my own. Although that was the last water polo game of the season, its impact on me was pivotal. I realized that I didn’t have to stop liking sports. In fact, now that I thought about it, I liked basketball. And their games started next week.

I always thought athletics were something I could never be a part of. I thought I just wasn’t meant to be a sports person. But as a sports writer, I learned that there are many more ways to get involved with sports for the less athletically inclined. I got to share the excitement I felt about the games through my stories. I was able to bond with people and make new friends through sports, even though I wasn’t playing. And I learned perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned in high school: getting out of your comfort zone can lead to incredibly valuable experiences. It sounds cliché, I know, but only because it’s true. If I had never joined the sports section of El Estoque, I could have spent the rest of my life assuming that I didn’t like sports. I could have cut myself off from such an enriching human experience.

So go ahead. Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to somebody you don’t know, join a club or go to a water polo game. It might just change your life.

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Side by Side

After playing on the MVHS boys tennis team for three years, senior Kevin Tan decided to join the badminton team instead. As a new member, Tan noticed the differences between the two teams in terms of gender.
Of the 23 sports teams at MVHS, there are only six coed teams: badminton, track and field, cross country, wrestling, swimming and diving. Since these teams have no gender barriers, they are usually much larger.
“It’s just very different game style [in badminton] because especially when I’m observing the top players, the guys are usually hitting a lot bigger while with girls, it’s a lot more tactics … and the right strategy,” Tan said. “With some guys that I know it’s mostly brute strength and just trying to overpower the other player.”
Although Tan enjoyed his experience on a coed team more, senior Sina Faridnia enjoyed his experience more on a single gender boys water polo team. When he joined the varsity boys water polo team freshman year, Faridnia wasn’t familiar with the other players.
“Once I got in the pool, I made some really nice passes,” Faridnia said. “They kinda respected me more after that … You kind of create a [brotherhood] with your teammates and you become really close friends.”
Faridnia believes rather than gender, the teamwork and constant interaction with his teammates helped them become close.
“Just the fact that we were able to play a team sport and we were able to connect in that way helped us,” Faridnia said. “Maybe if there was a girl on the team the same thing would have happened.”
Faridnia is also a part of the MVHS swimming team. Like many coed teams, swimming is mostly an individual sport. Compared to the team-centered water polo practices, Faridnia feels this individual-focused practice doesn’t allow the team to develop deep connections. Aside from brief banter with fellow relay members, he finds athletes just don’t interact enough to make those same deep connections.
Junior Jessica Ji, a member of both track and field and the MVHS girls basketball team, agrees with Faridnia. She feels that gender does not play a significant role in the team dynamic; rather, she feels that the nature of each sport makes a bigger difference.
The size of the teams is also a factor; while her basketball team only has 10 players on it, the track and field team has around 134. Because of this size difference, Ji explains that the bonds created while playing aren’t the same, regardless of gender. Ji also feels that playing with another gender is a motivating factor for her to improve.
“It pushes me to work harder because I see other people being successful at the events that I’m doing,” Ji said. “There’s no negative feelings. Everyone cheers each other on, so it’s a very positive community.”
Similar to Ji, senior Eesha Golap, a member of the MVHS badminton team, feels that playing alongside another gender has helped her gain more opportunities in matches. Before this year, Golap only played singles against another girl, but this year, she plays mixed doubles.
“I like coed sports better because there’s more opportunity,” Golap said. “Like if a guy’s better than you, you can play with the guy and get better. For a guy, if a girl’s better than the guy, he can play with the girl.”
Senior Patrick Kan also plays mixed doubles and believes the mix of genders can help freshmen making the transition from middle school.
“For our freshmen who maybe didn’t have as much interaction with the opposite gender in middle school, it really gives them a chance to talk to them and socialize,” Kan says.
However, Faridnia does find that the addition of multiple genders means some students don’t feel as free to be themselves.
“[In] water polo it’s just guys so you can do really goofy things in the locker room or outside that you can’t really do during swimming with girls around,” Faridnia said. “You don’t let yourself be yourself 100 percent because we try to impress the girls or whatever. But during water polo you can just be yourself 100 percent. You don’t have to worry about anyone judging you or anything like that since you’re among like close friends and kind of like your brothers, you know.”
Tan acknowledges this difference because, when he used to be on the tennis team, he felt that some boys seemed to have the mindset that they could act and play differently when only boys were present.
“When you’re doing something really competitive, if you’re cooperating with another gender, it kind of controls you I guess and it just helps you become a better person in general, especially in sports, so I find that [is] a huge benefit.”

Boys baseball: MVHS wins three consecutive games in three days

Additional reporting by Sannidhi Menon and Himani Yalamaddi

Three consecutive games. Three consecutive wins. Last week, the MVHS baseball team played two games against Fremont HS and one non-league game against Mission San Jose HS. See below for two out of the three victories the Matadors obtained.

March 21, MVHS vs. FHS

After a scoreless first few innings, MVHS was able to build momentum in the latter half of the game and win with a final score of 5-0. With FHS unable to score any runs in the top of the first inning MVHS took the lead when a hit down the line by senior Sathya Kumaraguru allowed junior Jason Koontz, who was walked and had stolen second, to score in the bottom of the first inning. FHS batters had little success, having had two consecutive 1-2-3 innings (where no batter gets on base).

In the bottom of the third, junior Ryan Hada was able to hit a double into center field, and Kumaraguru followed up with a flyball to bring Hada home and give MVHS a 2-0 lead.

Kumaraguru explained that in order to focus on hitting that double, he had to tune out his surroundings, including the encouraging cheers coming from the dugout. This helped him to come through during this key moment that brought in another run.

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Senior Sathya Kumaraguru at bat. Kumaraguru hit a double in the bottom of the third inning, allowing MVHS to take the lead. Photo by Sannidhi Menon.

“Baseball is a game where everyone talks a lot,” Kumaraguru said. “It’s kind of annoying, honestly, because you lose your focus and I think it’s important to zone everything out and focus on just the ball.”

MVHS prevented FHS from advancing past second base for the next three innings with good fielding and multiple strikeouts by pitcher and senior Christopher Anderson. However, FHS matched their efforts, and the Matadors were also unable to score any runs during those innings.

It was not until the bottom of the sixth inning that MVHS began to pick up momentum. One after the other runner loaded the bases. Junior Jake Kokeny hit a ground ball, and Junior Tommy Lindstrom was walked. Anderson hit a successful bunt. The tension was evident on the field as senior Nathan Hui went up to bat. The bleachers roared as a line drive into right field brought home Kokeny. But it was not over yet: the bases remained loaded. With junior Jeffery Tian coming in as a pinch runner for Lindstrom, senior Anthony Moll continued the pattern by hitting a line drive down left field and widening the score gap to 4-0. The momentum continued as Koontz hit a ground ball, allowing Anderson to score another run and bringing the score to 5-0. However, the inning was cut short when Hui was tagged out at home followed by an inning ending double play.

Anderson explained that MVHS’ ability to keep the bases constantly loaded put pressure on the other team’s batters.

“When one guy gets on base, it motivates the next person up to also get on base [and] it might apply more pressure,” Anderson said.

Kumaraguru also thought that as the Matadors applied more pressure on the Firebirds with the bases loaded, FHS began to lose motivation which further contributed to the Matadors’ success.

Although FHS began to pick up momentum in the top of the seventh inning with three consecutive ground balls putting a runner on third, the last batter struck out, ending the game with the Firebirds unable to score a single run.

Koontz believes that this game helped the Matadors gain confidence, as they did not have a good opening to the league season last year. However, with this game giving them a 3-1 league record, Koontz thinks they are off to a better start. He explained that in order to earn future successes, they must continue to do what they did during this game, only better.

“Keep hitting the ball. Keep getting good contact. Keep working the pitcher. Keep working the counts,” Koontz said.

March 23, MVHS vs. MSJHS

After their second win against FHS on March 22, the Matadors gave the starters a break and put in many of their bench players for a non-league game against MSJHS. The bench players proved themselves by taking the game, 6-2.

MVHS started off the inning strong, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The crowd looked in awe as the scoring started with a ground rule double by Tian. After stealing third base, he was able to score via a popup by Moll. It had been less than 15 minutes since the game had started. Third in the lineup, senior Joshua Huang got to first base after being walked and advanced to second by a single by junior Christian Garber. A ground ball by junior Nikhil Venkhat brought home Huang, resulting in a 2-0 advantage for MVHS.

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Junior Jeffery Tian waits on deck. In the bottom of the first inning, Tian hit a ground rule double, helping MVHS start the game off strong. Photo by Sannidhi Menon.

Tian explained how the team had wanted to get an early lead in the game to demotivate the opposing team, and believes they were able to succeed by scoring those two runs. He said he was excited when he had hit the ground rule double.

“It felt really good. Off the bat I thought it was over, but it wasn’t, so I couldn’t stop smiling,” Tian said. “It was a really happy moment, probably the furthest I ever hit the ball.”

Despite an error at first base allowing a batter to advance to second base in the top of the second inning, no runs were scored by MSJHS in that inning.

Senior Ginga Sato’s first hit of the season was a single into center field, and he subsequently stole second and third base while junior Sam Yang was at bat during the bottom of the second inning. A hit by Moll brought Sato home, his first run of the season.

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Senior Ginga Sato smiles as he walks back to the dugout after scoring a run in the bottom of the second inning. This was his first run of the season. Photo by Sannidhi Menon.

Sato believes that part of the reason for their success at scoring so many runs during the first two innings was because it was the bench players who were out on the field.

“Today, most of the starters were usually benchwarmers, and they all wanted to have an opportunity [to play] and they got it,” Sato said. “They were desperate to get something done, and that got into a good cycle.”

The bottom of the second inning ended with another run, giving the Matadors a four run lead. MSJHS was unable to get past second base in the third inning, and it was once again MVHS’ turn to bat. With a flyball single into left field by Venkat and junior Josh Ploshay being walked, MVHS quickly occupied first and second base with no outs in the bottom of the the third. A line drive into left field by junior John Logie brought the score to 5-0. It seemed as though the game would end with another blowout by the Matadors.

Although MSJHS had little success against the starting pitcher, Huang, in the first four innings, MSJHS began to strike back in the fifth inning. Relief pitcher Kumaraguru allowed two walks after coming in for Huang, but began to find his rhythm and struck out the next batter. However, a line drive deep into left field brought home both runners, bringing the score to 5-2.

While the Matadors could not score any runs during the bottom of the fifth inning, MSJHS was also unable to score, failing to keep their momentum from the top of the sixth inning. The Matadors were able to score one more run during their half of the sixth inning. Yang led off with a single and a steal and was able to score on a ground ball from Moll, widening the score gap to 6-2.

With MSJHS unable to score any runs in the top of the 7th inning, the Matadors won their third game in three days. Huang described this game as less stressful compared to the other games this week.

“This is [the] third game in three days, so I think we were just trying to take it easy and have fun and win,” Huang said. “For me, since I was pitching, I just wanted to throw strikes.”

However, although this was only a non-league game, Huang explained that it was still important in the long run.

“We played a lot of [substitutes] today, but it was still a must-win game because it counted into CCS standings, so we had to win this game,” Huang said.

The team’s next home game will be on April 3 against Lynbrook HS at 4:00 p.m.

Up the ranks

After a close loss to Fremont HS, MVHS girls soccer coach Jose Vargas pulled out his phone to read a message from the FHS coach.

“The Fremont coach ended up texting our coach and saying ‘You guys were a very good team and you guys have grown a lot over the past few years,’” senior captain Srinidhi Balaraman said.

The MVHS girls soccer team has, in years past, not had much competitive success. They only won one game last season. But this year, the team appears to have turned themselves around. The team finished the season close to the top of the table with a record of 6-3-3. With a winning record for the first time in seven years, they finished third in league, with only Fremont HS and Gunn HS ahead of them.

As senior Mansi Reddy explains, the team wasn’t taken very seriously by the players themselves or the opposition.

“Freshman year, I went into it knowing that [MVHS] soccer was a joke,” Reddy said. “My parents never even showed up.”

This year’s team, with a second year coach and plenty of underclassmen talent, has managed to greatly exceed expectations. In the classic underdog story, the girls team overcame their past reputation to shock many of the traditional powerhouses of the league, including Milpitas HS and FHS.

The start of the team’s season took many opponents by surprise, as they were much better than expected. Teams like FHS that, in the past, were used to beating MVHS by sometimes three or even four goals, found themselves struggling to score even once.

“When we played Lynbrook [HS], we overheard players saying that ‘Oh we have to beat [MVHS], they’re not the good team,’” Balaraman said. “I would say it’s advantageous because people don’t expect you to be as good as you are, so we came in and showed them and we beat them.”

As the season went on and as the team played more opponents, its “joke” status was long gone. According to junior Mythili Ketavarapu, teams began to take them much more seriously and began to respect their skill.

“It makes it harder the second time we play teams because we play every team twice,” Ketavarapu said. “Because then the second time [we play them] they’re like ‘Oh we underestimated them last time, but not a second time.’”

With slim CCS contention in its last two games, the team tied Cupertino HS 0-0 and beat Wilcox HS 4-0 on senior night. However, this was not enough to secure a CCS spot. The team would have needed to pass Gunn HS and reach second place to have a chance to make it. Even with this slight disappointment, however, players like Reddy still view the season positively.

“I think we have proven our playing level as a team,” Reddy said. “We shouldn’t be seen a joke as we have been in the previous years and I hope this year will … give MVHS a new name in terms of girls soccer.”

Girls soccer: Team falls to Fremont in final minutes

The MVHS girls soccer team came into their game on Wednesday, Jan. 17 undefeated in their past six league games, and were looking to continue their success against a highly ranked Fremont HS team.

They had a very similar standing to us,” sophomore Jaimie Chan said, “so I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy battle, but it was still winnable.”

Throughout the first half, the Matadors pressed hard against the FHS defense. After a couple of shots on goal, freshman Leena Tanway scored the game’s opening goal. 

We got excited, and we were really happy we scored because it gives us the head on the other team,” Tanway said, “but at the same time we needed to make sure that we kept our cool.”

As the half progressed, the FHS coaching staff became increasingly frustrated, arguing with each other over the right course of action. MVHS seemed to have the advantage over the other team.

Meanwhile, freshman Hana Foster went down after a foul with a sprained ankle and would not return to game play for a week. As Tanway explained, forwards need to be rotated out regularly due to the high amounts of running they do up and down the field. With Foster out of the rotation, the team was forced to rely on players who may not have had sufficient rest.

She’s very fast so that kind of affected us as a team, because we weren’t able to keep up with that speed and get to the balls as easily,” Tanway said.

However, her injury provided the team with even more motivation to finish the first half strong.

“It actually gave us some seconds to like gather ourselves and talk to each other,” senior captain Srinidhi Balaraman said. “That’s how the second [part] of the first half started getting a little better.”

Despite strong vocal support from the bench throughout the game, a few missed opportunities began to pile up. The Matadors knew that FHS wanted to keep them in the middle of the field, but weren’t pushing outside enough according to their coach. As an FHS attempt landed in the back of the net, the team started to get a little concerned.

“We definitely got a little worried as soon as the first goal happened, … they get into your head after that,” Balaraman said.

Soon after, senior Sara Nordby scored off a pass from Chan, bringing the score to 2-1. But despite the renewed energy and excitement, FHS scored twice more with eight minutes to spare, ending the game 2-3.

Aside from a close battle, the FHS game was also Tanway’s second to last with the team, as she moved to Leland HS. 

I honestly just wish I could play the rest of the season here cause these girls are, they’re girls that I truly love, and some of my best friends are in this team,” Tanway said.

As a freshman, she appreciated her older teammates willingness to listen to her ideas and advice.

“It helps with confidence and everything cause I see that as one of the younger players I’m still able to affect the team and still help everybody out,” Tanway said. “On other teams you definitely wouldn’t see that, but the girls here are really welcoming…  it definitely helps on the field because you know everybody trusts each other.”

The MVHS girls soccer team will have their next home game against Cupertino HS on Jan. 24.

Superfan

Many MVHS students enjoy professional sports, but for some, this love extends beyond lunchtime debates and quick checks of the Bleacher Report app between classes. These devoted fans show their love in different ways, from watching every single game of the season to traveling to another state to watch their team play in their home stadium. For these so-called “superfans,” their dedication to a team has had a profound impact on their life, from instilling character values to helping them de-stress.

CONSISTENT EFFORT

Senior Manav Shah has been a Patriots fan for years. According to Shah the Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick, doesn’t hesitate to bench star players if they’re playing badly and plays rookies even in crucial games.

“I think that’s what makes everybody work super hard since it doesn’t matter if you’re a 10-year veteran or you’re a rookie,” Shah said. “You’re going to have to play your best every game, otherwise he’ll sit you.”

Shah tries to replicate that effort in his own life as a soccer player. He remembers being completely out of shape and jetlagged after a trip to India.

He wasn’t expecting to play. But after one of the team’s other left wing backs broke his foot, Shah had to step in.

“Obviously I wasn’t in shape [or] anything, but I just had to keep pushing myself, and eventually we tied the game 2-2 and that was enough points to get us into the next round,” Shah said.

At the end of the day, being a football fan is about watching games. For Shah, the dedication his Pats has to playing good football is fun to watch.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the country,” Shah said. “You can follow them and then you’ll see that [you] just fall in love with the way they play and the amount of effort they put into football.”

SMALL PLEASURES

Senior Anita Narkhede’s love for the Golden State Warriors started at her club volleyball tournaments, when parents would always discuss the previous nights’ Warriors games. Catching her interest, she started watching the Warriors as well and quickly got hooked.

“It’s mostly because they play with a lot of joy,” Narkhede said. “I like how it’s a fast-paced game, but also when they’re playing, they’re always smiling, they’re always laughing, they’re always having a lot of fun.”

Compared to other NBA teams who she feels can be “too serious” at times, Narkhede feels that the Warriors have found a good balance between work and fun, one that she strives to find in her own life. Narkhede tries to look for small joys in her life rather than getting too caught up in all the work she has to do.

Unlike others, who Narkhede says worry about their future job prospects after one bad grade, she tries not to sweat over the small stuff.

“‘Oh, you had one bad day, but it won’t make a huge difference in your life,’” Narkhede said. “If you pay attention to the little things which give you joy, then it’ll have a bigger impact on your happiness.”

LOYALTY

Social science teacher Scott Victorine is unsure where his love for the Minnesota Vikings came from. As a first grader watching football for the first time, Victorine fell in love with the purple and gold.

According to Victorine, being a Vikings fan isn’t easy. Although they are currently ranked first in the NFC North division, the team has never won a Super Bowl, and hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 41 years.

While he would like his team to win, he feels that loyalty is much more important.

“It was just important to stick with your team, cause it’s kind of like life,” Victorine said. “There’ll be ups and downs, but you don’t get to pick when they’re up and when you’re down.”

He sees this loyalty as a character trait that helps him support his friends and family. About a year and a half ago, a friend of Victorine’s went through a divorce, and he saw helping his friend through rough patches as a part of his responsibility.

“It’s not always the most uplifting conversation. But it’s important that, as a friend, I’m there, to make sure he feels supported and that ultimately, he doesn’t get too rough,” Victorine said.

Even if he doesn’t solve every problem, he feels it’s important just to be there with his friends.

As Victorine says, it’s “sticking with people when times are not only good, but [when] times are tough.”