Though inconsistency has sometimes been cited in reference to the Davis High girls volleyball team, there was a steady feeling of victory being just around the corner on Tuesday at Ponderosa High.
And, despite their Sac-Joaquin Section first-round playoff match against Oak Ridge ending in a four-game loss, the Blue Devils have a lot to be proud of as their season ends at 19-12.
No. 12 seed DHS went into Tuesday’s match as an underdog to the fifth-seeded Trojans (18-13), and immediately seemed it in the first game as Oak Ridge leapt to a 7-1 advantage. At that point, the locals appeared unable to surpass the blocking ability of their opponents.
Devil junior Kimmy Siu nearly altered the course of the set, putting the momentum back in her team’s hands with three consecutive aces. But the Trojan attackers who towered over the net eventually smacked enough kills to claim Game 1 at 25-19.
Siu, who tallied 30 digs Tuesday, together with the sturdy defensive senior Mackenzie Harrison, negated this problem in the following set by diving about to keep the ball in play.
Meanwhile, Davis junior Maya Gilardi’s six kills in this portion of the match provided offense. Gilardi and senior Zoe Hunt-Murray were amassing kills all night, finishing with 19 and 12, respectively.
The Blue Devil attackers, including junior Irene Rutazihana and Karlie Kijanka, brought their team a 25-16 win by altering the trajectory of their kills — lobbing it instead of spiking it down — to account for the wall of blockers that had impeded their scoring opportunities in the first game.
“We did a great job of changing up what we were doing and taking them out of our system,” said DHS coach Julie Crawford. “But they also in turn did the same thing to us.”
The Trojans adjusted as the Devils did, and found a routine in which their height-advantaged girls could finish with a powerful kill. This tactic allowed Oak Ridge to keep pace with DHS in Game 3 until the teams met at the 13-13 mark.
The set was a race from there on out, with neither team reaching more than a two-point advantage. It was three key service errors on the part of the Blue Devils that made the difference, one arriving at the not-so-opportune score of 23-21. The set ended with the Trojans on top 25-23.
The final game epitomized the never-say-die attitude of the 2013 DHS squad, with locals coming back from a 14-6 deficit to forge a 17-17 tie. However, a controversial call by the referee halted the Devil momentum and the set came to a 25-17 end.
Also coming to an end were Davis’ section tournament hopes. Still, the work that the girls had put in to get to the playoff match was not forgotten.
“We played some really competitive volleyball against a great defensive team,” Crawford said. “That’s what we came out here to do — to show that we were a good team that deserved to be in the playoffs.
“It has been a great season. These girls have a great work ethic. I’m looking forward to another good one with the girls who are returning. I’m excited about the future of volleyball at DHS.”
Surely missed will be Hunt-Murray, whose contributions on the offensive front have been oft-reported. Perhaps less referenced but with equal significance is the departure of the other senior, Harrison.
This defensive specialist, who plays in the libero position, spoke after the game to the determination exhibited by her Blue Devil teammates — a group she now sadly bids farewell to.
“We all have been working really hard, and I’m proud of how we played,” Harrison said. “Even though we lost, I think that we put it all out there and did a great job overall.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett.