Dream season ends at NorCal, but core team excited for 2019

Ryan McCarthy, Sports Editor

Branham’s boys varsity volleyball team celebrates and congratulates each other as a group after their CCS Championship after beating Aptos at St. Francis High School in Mountain View.


“An uphill battle.”


This is how the members of Branham’s boys volleyball team characterized their season, which ended abruptly earlier this month after winning the Division II CCS tournament and making it to the CIF NorCal Division I Boys Volleyball Championships, losing in the first round against Clovis. It marked the second CCS championship in the team’s history, as well as their first trip to the NorCal tournament since 2010.

This journey could never have been possible without the camaraderie within the team, which junior and team captain Cole Gillis calls an “enormous” advantage over their opponents.

“This is a team that I would never trade for anything,” Gillis says, the team leader in kills this season. “We have such a good connection together, and it’s something you can’t find anywhere else.”

“Even if we were the underdogs at times, we knew that we would fight for every point, guys knew what they needed to do,” says head coach Heather Cooper. They weren’t going to let down the guy to their right, to their left, behind them, or even on the bench. They knew that they had a job, and that job was going to benefit everyone on the team.”

Besides one freshman and one senior, the team is solely made up of juniors, a fact that members cite as the primary reason for unity. Junior Luke Sayre agrees with the advantages of his team’s members being so close in age and grade.

“Most of us are juniors, so we pretty much always hang out together,” Sayre says. “We are all really close, going to team dinners after every game. I think we have a special bond that nobody else has.”

“I think we are all just a bunch of brothers,” says junior and co-captain Ben Brigham. “We play as a family; every game we play in, we either all win or all lose.”

Reaching the NorCal tournament was unexpected for this season’s team, which they claim was aided by the level of competition at practice.

“Competition at practices is always at a high level,” Sayre says. “We are always talking trash to each other, laughing, and trying to get the best of each other.”

“There is not a single time in which every single guy there doesn’t want to be the top guy, pushing to be the best,” Gillis says.

“We really get into it, try to get into each others’ faces like the other teams would in games,” Brigham says. “We try to replicate what would happen in games.”

The end result this season — a CCS championship and a trip to the NorCal tournament — has the team aiming higher next year, with the main core intact for another season. The team expresses a high level of optimism for next season, still seeing room for improvement in every aspect of their game.

“We definitely told ourselves that we wanted to start out with a dream, which was to go to CCS and NorCals,” says Cooper. “From there we set more goals to do so, and the final thing was making it a reality. Every game we played up to CCS was the dream building up to reality.”

“I think it shows how well we work together, all towards one goal and what we can achieve,” Sayre says. “For next year, I think we’re going to be even stronger, being older and more experienced at this level.”

“We’re all going to come out wanting more, wanting to win CCS, wanting to win NorCals,” Gillis says. “I think we have an advantage, considering other teams have a lot more seniors than we did this year.

“With the team that we have staying together, we still have that brotherhood, on and off the court, and we can keep doing damage.”