One of the best things about sports is that once that first whistle blows on a game or match, everything else fades away.
For the Davis High boys volleyball team, Friday’s season opener — a 6 p.m. home match against Pleasant Valley — can’t come soon enough.
The program’s tumultuous past few weeks has been well chronicled in these pages, but interim co-coaches Jordon Friend and Ron Duer and their roster of 12 Blue Devils are now looking ahead — with an eye toward returning to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the third straight season.
“We have a talented and determined group of guys,” Friend told The Enterprise. “We have had one big goal in mind since Day 1, and that’s playoffs. If these boys keep working hard day in and day out, and can learn how to play well as a team, they will reach that goal. I have no doubt.”
In addition to learning to play as a team, DHS must try to fill the shoes of graduated standouts Sam Manderfield, Dan Bonetti and Don-Wook Shin.
The Devils have just one senior — Andre Foster — but already have seen leadership come from him and junior Evan Meerscheidt. Friend, who with Duer was an assistant coach for Julie Crawford last season, also liked what he saw from those two on the court at the recent Davis Jamboree.
“The seniors from last year are definitely going to be missed, but I think some of the younger guys are excited to step up and rise to the occasion,” Friend said. “Setter and opposite hitter Evan Meerscheidt and lone senior Andre Foster have done a good job of rallying their team, and have already shown great potential.”
Davis also expects big things, both offensively and defensively, from sophomore outside hitter Nick Simons, who was a revelation as a freshman in 2013. The 6-foot-4 Simons will get help at the net from Foster (6-3) and even the 6-foot Meerscheidt, which should make the Blue Devils a force when it comes to blocking.
The other DHS returners are all juniors: Milton Hong, Richard Lu, Dominic Fannjiang and Mike Basso.
Friend said the key for the locals is for that group to learn to play with the five new Devils: juniors Cliff Tsai, Alessandro Sgrelli, Eugene Long and Frank Khamart as well as freshman Ron Chandi, who coaches say could make an immediate impact.
The good news for Davis is that an early stretch of four matches in seven days, starting with Friday’s opener, will give it court time to gel.
“We have a young squad this year, with only one senior … and some first-time players,” Friend explained. “As a team, we look forward to all the game time so we can to figure out how to play cohesively as one unit on the court.
“A lot of these guys haven’t played together (so) in our preseason we plan on refining our system and really getting back to the basics so we can work from there and grow together as a team.”
Notes: For the first time in program history, the Blue Devils will field a junior varsity team this spring. ”This is really good for the longevity of the program and being able to develop players while they’re younger, making our program much stronger in the long haul,” Friend said. There are nine players on the DHS JV roster. … The varsity squad got off to a late start as Crawford, who has coached the Devil boys and girls volleyball teams for three years, was told her contract would not be renewed less than a week before scheduled tryouts. The Enterprise later learned that a district investigation found her to be in violation of board policy. Crawford has been granted an appeal by the school board, but it has not yet been heard.
— Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or 530-747-8049.