Behind a season-high 29 kills from outside hitter sophomore Nick Simons, the Davis High boys volleyball team came back from behind to outlast Monterey Trail in five games on Thursday night at The Cage.
The 25-23, 23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-11 win puts the Blue Devils (9-7, 3-1 Delta Valley Conference) in sole possession of second place in the league standings.
“That’s a huge win for us, especially with the playoffs being our goal,” said DHS coach Jordon Friend. “I’m super proud of the guys. We just played really good volleyball (Thursday) and we fought hard.”
The Devils started strong in the opening game, taking an early 6-0 lead thanks to two blocks and the first of 12 kills from senior Andre Foster as well as an ace from freshman Ron Chandi.
But the Mustangs fought back as the teams traded points like Pokemon cards, and eventually the game was tied at 22-22.
After a Foster spike and an unreturned serve from Richard Lu, a Davis defensive miscommunication put the score at 24-23.
Enter Simons, who already had seven kills up to that point. A perfect set from setter Evan Meerscheidt allowed Simons to record his eighth kill of the game with a violent smash that the MTHS defenders could only watch as it slammed to the ground inbounds.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Friend said of Simons’ performance on the night. “Coming out and getting 29 kills, that’s really good. He wasn’t able to be stopped (Thursday).”
The locals then dropped the next two games by a combined five points before coming out on fire in the fourth set, quickly running out to a 12-6 lead thanks to key plays from Simons and Foster.
“I went in (at the break between the third and fourth games) and told them that this (match) was far from over and that if we come out and refuse to lose, then we’ll win,” Friend said. “They came out and they didn’t let one ball hit the floor. They were scrappy and like I said, I couldn’t be more proud.”
Simons was on fire. Even when his hits were blocked or returned, he kept confidently yelling to the setter, “again! again! again!”
The 12-6 advantage quickly turned into 21-13 and 24-20. Then, a Foster serve was unable to be returned, sending the whole team into pandemonium ahead of the fifth game.
The momentum from the fourth game carried over to the fifth as Foster and Simons seemed to take turns getting kills, setting up game point at 14-11.
“We can’t give (Simons) all the credit because Andre Foster, if he wasn’t a big threat in the middle, Nick wouldn’t have been able to be so successful,” Friend said.
But Simons was successful on the deciding point of the match.
The Mustangs served the ball in to the Blue Devils, who set up Simons as a silent crowd looked on with anticipation.
Simons was denied not one, not two, but three times in a long rally before finally getting the winning kill on his fourth attempt as the team and the fans erupted.
“I think the boys really wanted to fight,” Friend said. “In a close match like that when you’re losing games or winning games and the points are really close, refusing to lose and having that mind-set really paid off for us.”
If DHS can keep that mind-set through a 12-day break between matches, it will pay off when it takes the court next on April 22 at Elk Grove.
— Reach Evan Ream at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam