Verdugo Hills takes down Monroe on the road
Road games in league play can be a roller coaster. A team may have to find a way to pull out a match when the sharpness that you expect to have didn’t travel with you on the bus. Sometimes it can be as simple as the opponent has no intention of giving you a victory; you must go and take it from them. No truer words can be spoken about the Verdugo Hills Dons varsity volleyball squad in their four-set win over the Monroe Vikings. It was ugly at times, but the defending East Valley champions' resolve was on full display in their come from behind conquest of the Monroe Vikings.
The match got off to a sluggish start for the Dons filled with plenty of unforced errors that gave way to a 11-5 lead for Monroe in the first set of action. What the Monroe Vikings squad lacked in power, they made up for in speed. The Vikings did a stellar job in the opening set of scrambling and keeping balls in play which forced the Dons to make plays offensively. With a myriad of service and reception errors under their belt, the Dons shot themselves in the foot early and often. After a quick kill by one of Monroe's pin hitters, Verdugo Hills found themselves down 17-9 and in imminent danger of dropping the first set. To the Dons credit, they found a bit of consistency and put together an 8-2 scoring run to cut the deficit to 19-18. Monroe shook off a spell of their own rough play and sat on the brink of taking the first set at 24-20. In what would quickly become a theme of the match, Verdugo dug in and fought off set points until Monroe Head Coach John Heier was forced to call a timeout to regroup as the Dons had pulled the score to 24-23. With an opportunity to extend the set, the ensuing serve was smashed straight into the net, and the Vikings had taken the first set 25-23.
Building off the momentum from the end of the first set, The Dons showed a renewed focus and took the initiative in the second set of the match. Led by great hitting on the outside by Ramon Rodriguez and Ryan Waters, the Dons built a 9-4 advantage in the early portion of the second frame. Monroe continued to show great defensive prowess which led to a few long rallies, but the Dons had it rolling after the slow start. A Vikings kill cut the set deficit to 9-5, but that is as close as it would get. The Dons went on a 16-5 run to close the set and even the match at a set apiece.
The third set was much of the same for the Dons. Although the Vikings had regrouped and found a little of the magic offensively that they started the contest with, The Dons were not giving away points the way they had in the early portion of the match. After a long rally point cut Verdugo’s third set lead to 10-8, the Dons would get hot and separate from Monroe with a 10-2 run that pushed the lead to double digits. Monroe continued to battle to extend the frame, but a Silas Rychlik spike found the hardwood in between two back line defenders and gave the Dons a 25-12 set victory and a 2-1 lead heading to the fourth.
The fourth set was a dogfight from the jump. Neither team was able to find daylight until a quick scoring burst by the Dons pushed the lead to 11-7. The teams would continue to trade scoring runs until a Verdugo Hills return error knotted the set at 19-19. Monroe put themselves into position to force a fifth set when a terrific play by Monroe gave the Vikings a 24-21. With two set points staring them in the face, the Dons found themselves in the same position that they encountered in the first set. Ramon Rodriguez came through in the clutch for the Dons pulling the match even on the strength of 2 kills and a dig that continued a point that ended with a Monroe misfire at the net. After dropping the set points and giving up a golden chance to push the match to a fifth set, the air completely went out of the Vikings sails and the Dons picked up two quick points to put the match away. Despite the inconsistent play, the Dons pulled out a victory that could help them when things get tougher down the road. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was the best win of the young season for the team and may provide a confidence boost that can bolster the squad going forward. “The team should feel confident in their ability to work out of a jam and hopefully if the situation arises again, they can lean on that experience to find a victory,” said Head Coach Will Reinhart after the Verdugo Hills gutsy performance.
The win pushed the Dons to a 3-0 to start league play and keeps them on the heels of the league’s frontrunners, Grant. Keeping up with the Grant Lancers and beating them are two different things, and Coach Reinhart knows that his team has work to do if they want to surpass their league rival this season. The early portion of the season, including this match saw Reinhart tinker with his lineup to find a high-level of play that can bring them another league title. “We have a little more time before the Grant match but it’s getting to the point where we are going to have to commit to an identity that best positions us for long term success,” said Reinhart. The Lancers are the only other unbeaten team in East Valley play after their straight sets victory over Arleta.
The Dons will return to action with a contest against an East Valley opponent in the Poly Parrots. The action gets underway at The Barn on March 18th at 4pm.