While most of the Davis High girls volleyball team’s battle with Grant on Thursday night was an example of the local squad at its best — there were moments when the Blue Devils were also at their worst.
But DHS emerged from The Cage triumphant, winning 25-13, 23-25, 28-26, 25-8 to improve to 5-2 in Delta Valley Conference play.
It marked the second time this year that the Pacers were bested by the Devils, after Davis took a convincing three sets (25-20, 25-19 and 25-12) in an away match on Oct. 7.
And the Blue Devils seemed to be on track for a similar result in the first set on Thursday, as some key blocks by sophomore Kendal Paulson put Grant in an early 6-2 hole.
Then came senior Zoe Hunt-Murray’s pair of aces, which, in combination with a trio of aces by freshman Samantha Moore, kept the Blue Devils with a safe lead.
Paulson, who tallied two kills and blocks in the first set, worked in concert with her more veteran DHS squadmates, like junior Maya Gilardi, to cement the 25-13 win.
The next set provided a different picture — one of a struggling Devils. The Pacers lept to a 6-1 advantage over what appeared to be a relaxed Davis squad. The locals had problems finishing points, even letting the ball cross the net 12 times before flinging it out of bounds on one rally.
At one point, the Blue Devils were down 18-8.
But the locals battled back into position — bringing it to 23-24 — thanks to an increasingly reliable back line. The effort was led by Gilardi, whose 10 digs were the most of any Devil on Thursday. She wasn’t a slouch on offense either, amassing 12 kills for DHS.
Still, the Pacers held on to win Game 2, 25-23, turning the match into a precarious 1-1 affair.
“Even the smallest letdown of aggression can give the other team a lot of momentum,” said Davis coach Julie Crawford. “I always tell the girls how important it is to continue to press just as hard after winning a round — they didn’t do that.”
Grant appeared to have retained the momentum for most of the third set, as the Blue Devils were soon facing a 17-12 deficit.
By that point, the DHS squad had almost sank itself by sending the ball out of bounds five times during rallies — this between three serving errors and two net fouls.
But the Pacers weren’t impervious to error themselves. A serving error at 25-25 provided an opportunity for the Devils, who eventually won the set on a kill by Rebecca Monachello.
The final game of the night had an atmosphere reminiscent of the first set, with smiles on the Blue Devils’ faces as the crowd cheered a once more threatening squad.
The dominance of Hunt-Murray and her 17 total kills became most apparent as she hammered three shots down in nearly the same exposed spot, as if digging a hole.
Also exerting some serious force was Irene Rutazihana, who tallied nine kills throughout. She was crucial on defense as well, and led the team with four blocks.
In short order, DHS found itself with a match-clinching 25-8 victory. But there was no taking away from the effort put forth by the visitors on Thursday.
“Grant has a scrappy team with a solid defense,” Crawford said. “They took us out of our game after we let up on our aggression, and it took us awhile to get out of our funk.
“It was a lesson for the girls (Thursday). We have some important games that we have to win this season, and we can’t have any mental lapse.”
The Blue Devils re-enter The Cage on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a rematch with Laguna Creek, who they beat in a three-set match earlier this season.
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett.