Volleyball bounces back from losses

Published 9:21 am Thursday, September 5, 2019

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Sometimes, in sports as in life, you hit a patch of bad luck. Davie’s varsity volleyball team played beautifully against Hickory on Aug. 24 at West Iredell. That Davie lost in three sets – 25-23, 26-24, 25-21 – tells you all you need to know about Hickory’s talent level.

When two starters went down with injuries later in the day against W. Iredell, Davie didn’t have a chance. It was another three-set loss (25-14, 25-22, 25-20).

Davie lost three matches in 2018; the 2019 War Eagles lost two in one ill-fated day. Hickory handed them their first 3-0 setback since Oct. 12, 2017 at Reagan.

Coach Amber Brandon said of Hickory: “We played a super talented team. That’s probably the best we’ve played all year. Hickory didn’t have a weak spot.”

Against W. Iredell, injuries to Aimee Loj and Kayla Moore  gave Brandon a helpless feeling. Loj sprained her ankle in the first set. In the second set, Moore’s aching knees ended her day early.

Brandon: “We have a pretty deep team, but the middle where Aimee plays is the only place where we’re not deep. In the second set, Kayla’s knees started really bothering her, so we had to pull her. Two matches in one day was more than she could handle.”

Win Over Tabor

Depth is like insurance: You don’t need it until you do. Davie needed Plan B to get to 3-2 in nonconference play.

At Mt. Tabor on Aug. 27, a critical piece of the puzzle, Loj, was sitting out. So was stalwart Moore. Thus, the War Eagles were out of sync in the first set. The result was a 26-24 loss as Brandon watched Davie drop seven straight sets for the first time in her five years as coach.

They righted the ship in time to beat the Spartans in four sets. The scores of the last three: 25-16, 25-21, 25-21. The Spartans tumbled to 0-3 while playing a brutal schedule (Reagan and West Rowan before Davie).

Brandon: “The first set we were just trying to figure things out. We were trying to figure out new hitter/setter relationships, and we had bad passes.”

Kiah Mathis, a freshman JV player, was pulled up to replace Loj, and she picked up the slack on the front row. “Mathis had to have a big role,” she said.

Moore’s playing time fell to sophomore Abigail Reynolds, who acquitted herself well.

Brandon: “A couple young kids had to grow up tonight, which was nice. Abby had to fill Kayla’s shoes, and she really grew up throughout the match. When it was 21-18 (in Davie’s favor in the fourth set), we had a scramble play. We dug the ball and it went right over Abby’s head. Instead of waiting on the setter, she jumped and put it in the center of the court. That’s just an athletic play. It was see ball, get ball. She’s an athlete. She’s just trying to figure out the game.”

Win Over ES

In a home match against East Surry on Aug. 29, the War Eagles dug a 12-3 hole in the fourth set. They spotted the Cardinals a 7-0 lead in the fifth set. Remarkably, they overrode both deficit to beat the Cardinals in five sets (25-21, 9-25, 22-25, 25-23, 16-14).

Davie improved to 4-2 with its second five-set triumph. (It rallied past Page 3-2 on Aug. 21.)

Brandon: “We’re trying to preach to our kids that eventually the ball’s not going to fall your way when you get behind that much.”

Give Davie credit for finding a way to flip the switch against a well-respected opponent. East (5-2) captured 15 of 16 sets during a 5-0 start. The day before visiting Mocksville, it lost 3-1 to one of the top teams in 3-A (West Rowan).

Brandon: “East Surry is a really good team. They’re fundamentally sound. They play really good defense. We could definitely take a note on some of the defensive plays they made. (Caleb Gilley) is one of the better coaches in our area for sure.”

And then: “We looked a little lackadaisical.”

Trailing two sets to one, Davie got off to an awful start in set four. Then came a major reversal that saw Davie rip off 22 of 33 points. The fifth set was identical, Davie going on a 16-7 run with its back against the wall.

The difference-makers were sophomore Ali Angell and seniors Dakota Hutchins and Zoey Clark.

Brandon: “Ali had a lights-out match. She led in kills and she had a couple big blocks at crucial times. She’s really grown up as a player the last couple of weeks.

“Dakota played really well in the fifth (set). The fifth was the flashes of her that I was expecting this year. In the fourth set, her serve-receive started to turn around, and in the fifth set she picked up hard-hit balls way outside of her body as part of that comeback. She picked up balls that we had let score in the first four sets. She played 11 out of 12 rotations in every set.

“Zoey had a couple big swings in the fifth. They really went after her in serve-receive, and at crunch time she did a good job of being a fourth-year varsity player, understanding that she just had to get the ball in the air and play out of it from there.”

Loj and Moore returned from injuries. “Aimee (ankle) was probably at 60-70 percent at best,” Brandon said.