By Zach Bergevin,
The Davis High men’s volleyball team finished the Aggie Classic with a record of 2-2 on April 28 after a gritty performance from the squad. After successfully earning a bid to the Gold Bracket where the top teams in the tournament compete after pool play, the Blue Devils fell 2-1 in a best-of-three nail-biter to Nevada Union High School.
At UC Davis, 18 varsity teams gathered inside the Aggie Pavilion. The Blue Devils delivered the first serve to Bentley High School at 8 a.m., but eventually lost the match 2-0. The match against Bentley was all it took for the Blue Devils to heat up and power through their next two matches.
Davis was off to a quick lead in its second match against Rocklin High School, led by strong serves and back-back aces by senior middle blocker Byron McConnell. Building off of momentum from McConnell’s aces, seniors Will Smith and Gavin Schouten both recorded multiple kills and blocks to put the squad over the edge in game one of the match to win 27-25.
“Props to our setters for getting the ball up there just perfect and hustling everywhere to set us up for kills,” Smith said.
Davis, however, dropped game two against Rocklin, making the score 1-1. Although senior Chris Sortor, junior Thomas Venner and junior Jeffrey Basso combined for nine digs in game two to set up spikes for McConnell and Schouten, their efforts were not enough, and Rocklin forced a third game.
In the third game against Rocklin, the Blue Devils were off to a slow start, winning the majority of their initial points on side-outs. However, senior hitter Will Wyman led a successful string of serves for the Devils, giving them the upper hand into the final points of the game. The Devils did a fantastic job closing out the game, with setters Sortor and junior Zach Ringer assisting Schouten, who stands at 6 feet 7 inches, in spiking the closing shots to bring the Devils to the 15-11 game three victory in the second match.
The third match, against the McClatchy Lions, resulted in another win for Davis. The team started the game dull, but the combination of energy from the bench and mid-game adjustments by head coach Jason Balmes pushed the Devils to victory and gave them a bid to the Gold bracket of the tournament at the conclusion of pool play.
Balmes was proud of his team’s defensive performance on Saturday.
“They got a lot of good digs, and my blockers, especially Will Smith, were aggressive around the net,” Balmes said.
In its fourth and final match against a top seed in the tournament, Nevada Union High School, Davis battled, but dropped the first game 25-21. The team gathered themselves in an energetic huddle and transitioned from great defensive digs into dominant spikes. The second game went to Davis, 25-21.
“We never gave up. Gavin [Schouten] was massacring the ball with multiple consecutive kills, just over and over,” Smith said.
The third and final game of the Devils’ fourth match was back and forth, with many lead changes. Eventually the superior hitting on the part of Nevada Union proved too much for Davis, allowing them to edge out the win against the Devils, 16-14.
Despite losing in the first bracket match of the tourney, the players were proud to have competed so well against great opponents.
“We were calling each other off of the ball, talking, and communicating well the whole game. We made very few errors and were focused the entire game,” Venner said.
Schouten agreed with Venner and was proud of his team for “playing up and stepping up to the other team’s level.”
Going into the rest of the season, coach Balmes believes “playing with confidence and not doubting ourselves is key” to winning games and believes his squad showed they were capable of playing confidently and communicating well throughout the tourney.