With his team trailing 17-12 in the fourth set in the Boston City boys’ volleyball championship, Latin Academy coach Lok-Tin Yao called a timeout. The Dragons were ahead, 2-1, but O’Bryant had seized the momentum.
“I just told them to focus on our passing,” Yao said. “Sometimes they just need a reminder, and you have to keep it simple because if the pass is off, the sets going to be off, and our hitting is going to be off.”
Following the timeout, the Dragons outscored O’Bryant, 15-8, to finish the game for a 25-17, 22-25, 25-14, 27-25 in the dimly lit gym at Madison Park High School.
The win capped an undefeated league season for Latin Academy (9-8, 5-0 BCL) and marked their third win over O’Bryant (9-6, 2-3) this season. Senior right side, Jonathan Lee, led the Dragons with 10 kills, four aces, and 17 digs.
“Winning this game meant a lot, especially because this is my last game,” Lee said. “Last year, I was so upset because we started the season, and it got canceled out of nowhere. I’m so thankful we got to play.”
Yao said Lee has always been a great passer and server but has struggled at times with hitting, the way Lee played in the championship surprised Yao and made him proud.
“He came out today ready to play,” Yao said. “He had some smart swings and not too many errors.
This championship was unlike any other in league history. Along with headbands and arm sleeves, athletes donned masks. The sound of each player yelling, “I got it,” and any other conversation on the court echoed off the empty bleachers typically occupied by screaming spectators. Each player grabbed a squirt of hand sanitizer from the scoring table before entering and leaving the game.
The fact that this game even took place was an accomplishment, said Billy Sitting, assistant athletic director for the city.
Thursday’s volleyball championship marked the final City League final. Baseball, softball, and track & field all wraped up this week.
A few months ago, Sitting wasn’t sure if they would ever be here.
“There was definitely some uncertainty about whether we would be able to get to this point,” he said. “Making this season possible for our kids with the loss they’ve had athletically, academically, and socially, it’s just a great achievement to be here and to be at this game.”
Coach Yao had similar feelings. “Honestly, at the beginning of the school year, I didn’t know if this was going to happen,” Yao said.
But when the time came to coach, he was prepared.
“I knew I had to coach, and I knew I had a good core group to build off of, so I was ready,” he said.
The Dragons struggled early in the first set, starting down 5-3 before scoring seven straight and eventually winning the first set 25-17. The second set was completely different as O’Bryant came out much more aggressive and won the set 25-22 thanks to two kills a piece from Jonathan Narsjo and Aymen Blanco.
In the third set, the Dragons found their groove again, and four errors from O’Bryant helped them to win 25-19.
The final set began playing out like the second set for O’Bryant. The players were energetic, and the sideline was energetic as they took a 17-12 lead before a Dragons timeout. Despite the lead, the Tigers could not capitalize, losing to the Dragons for the third time this season.
Narsjo led the Tigers with 11 kills, seven digs, and one ace.
The Dragons will lose six of the eight varsity players to graduation]. Even with the championship win, Yao knows that this team was much better than their 9-8 record showed.
“It stunk that we lost a season because this year could’ve been an even better year,” the third-year coach said. “We had some growing pains that we were working through from being more consistent to our passing and things like that, but I’m glad they even got a chance to play.”
Central Catholic 5, Methuen 0 — Zach Channen (6-3, 7-5) and Dalton Dow (7-5, 6-2) prevailed in challenging matches at first and second singles, and Arnav Lele cruised 6-1, 6-3, as the Raiders closed out a 7-4 regular season with the Merrimack Valley Conference win. The tandems of Cody Rueda/Ryan Melesky and Luca Beltrandi/Troy Hayes won at doubles.