After rallying from nine points down in the first game, the Davis High girl volleyballers dispatched visiting Napa, 27-25, 25-15, 19-25, 25-22.
The Blue Devils (22-7) managed to win a ferocious battle at the net with the taller Indians — and used the brilliant setting of Makena Sherwood to make third touches especially lethal in the opening contest of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs on Tuesday at The Cage.
“I would say this was one of the best first-round matches in Division I,” said a spent DHS coach Julie Crawford.
Early on, Napa’s 6-foot junior striker Jenna Guffy was punishing the Devils with thunder strikes at the net and left-handed senior Jennah Richmond hit some nifty, long-range winners.
The locals, co-champs of the Delta Valley Conference, fell behind 14-5 — at which point Crawford called time out and rallied her troops.
Slowly, DHS climbed back into contention …
Sherwood set up Lyndsay Chambers for back-to-back kill shots. Then, Sherwood’s placements allowed Angelina Leigh to put a few more points on the board.
When Leigh’s service ace made things 20-17, it was Napa’s turn to call for a break.
However, Davis kept the pressure on and, after Chambers landed a couple of tips on Napa, it was Maya Gilardi’s ace that brought the Blue Devils even at 21.
Ties came at 22, 23, 24 and 25. A bad Indian serve finally was followed by a Leigh smash to put DHS over the top, 27-25.
Based on the rest of the action, the second set was a relative breeze as the Devils used some innovation shots and deep digs from libero Mackenzie Harrison to prevail.
Close at 6-4, the locals put away seven straight points — among them: Adriana Defty snuffed Guffy at the net; Leigh drilled a point past a diving Marissa Spears; Richmond hit a return long; Leigh went high above the net to lower the boom; a Chambers blast; and Chelsea Sacramento’s net-dancer that rolled almost the length of the tape before depositing itself harmlessly in Napa territory.
Chambers and Leigh paced Davis from there and it was 2-0 quickly.
But the Monticello Empire League third-place squad didn’t make they postseason by accident … back the Indians came.
Leading 6-5, Napa saw Guffy and Richmond each with nine putaways and playing mano-a-mano with Sherwood, Gilardi and Chambers at the net.
The Blue Devils closed to within 16-15 after being down six, but Richmond’s long point from the left edge put Napa back on track to prevail, 25-19.
In the final set, DHS jumped out to a 10-5 bulge as Harrison was splayed all over the court making first-touch saves and sophomore Sherwood (daughter of former Devil volleyball coach Leigh Whitmire) set up Chambers, Defty and Gilardi for kills.
Chambers, meanwhile, was standing up to Guffy and once the game was tied at 14-14, Davis began to have second-round visions.
Leigh caught Napa (25-13) off guard with a sudden return and Chambers went back-to-back at the net.
Sherwood’s late assists to Chambers and Leigh, coupled with another Leigh kill, were enough to get the Devils their final margin of victory.
“In the first and second games, we were able to take Napa out of its offense,” Crawford explained of what she called “a complete team victory.”
Key points in games two and four came from Zoe Hunt Murray, strong contributions by Emma Peterson meant clear sailing for Davis in some difficult situations and sophomore Kimmy Siu on three separate occasions saved Blue Devil points with critical returns or setups.
“One of our goals is always to serve tough to take (opponents) out of their systems … and we did that,” the coach added. “They came on really strong, playing smart in the third game, and caught us off guard a little bit.”
But it wasn’t enough as DHS seems to be playing its best volleyball at the end of the season.
“It gives me chills. Our girls are playing so hard. At no point (Tuesday) did I think we were going to lose,” Crawford continued. “My girls play with so much heart, they never give up and we could have easily rolled over and died after that third game, but we didn’t.
“Everybody contributed something. It just really came together (Tuesday) and that’s what it takes. And my girls deserve it so much because they work so hard every single day.
“I’m really proud of them.”
Davis, the tournament’s No. 7 seed, looks like it now travels to St. Mary’s of Stockton on Thursday for a 7 p.m. game against the No. 2 Rams.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8047.