One day after he was among 27 students to take part in the school’s Class of 2016 graduation, Grace Christian Academy senior Kyle Davis played a pivotal role in helping the Knights boys volleyball team upend visiting Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Montgomery in five sets on Tuesday.
Grace Christian had swept Jewish Day twice during the season and even visiting coach Pat Dubash admitted that he was expecting a short end to the match after his team arrived roughly 45 minutes late while encountering ample traffic on the Beltway. But Grace and Jewish Day traded sets until the Knights won the tiebreaker to claim a 25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 24-26, 15-10 victory in the match.
Grace took on Berman Hebrew Academy of Montgomery County, the top seed in the Independent Schools Boys Volleyball League tournament, on Wednesday and fell in three sets to finish at 7-7 overall.
“I had missed the last two practices [last Friday and Monday] because of graduation rehearsal and then graduation,” Davis said after Tuesday’s match, “but I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team tonight. I’m the only senior and there are only three of us who played the last two years together.”
Grace won the first and third sets and appeared on the verge of ending the match in four when David Jones reeled off four straight service winners to give it a 16-11 lead. When the teams traded points over the next three rotations the Knights still owned a 20-15 lead heading into the late stages of the fourth set.
Jewish Day (6-6) rallied to take a 22-21 lead on five straight service winners from Uri Kozowalski, capped by an ace. The teams were then tied at 22, 23, and 24 before the visitors prevailed on an attack error by Grace’s Zach Wittlinger and a service ace by Aaron Weiss that Isaiah Satterthwaite could not handle to force the fifth-set tiebreaker.
Prior to the fifth set, Grace head coach Nate Schultz reminded his players that a quick start was imperative since 15 points, not 25, decides the victor. His players responded superbly, but Jewish Day did not cave under the pressure of the Knights’ fast start.
With his team leading 4-3, Jones made a diving dig that caught Jewish Day players by surprise and landed for a point and a 5-3 lead. Wittlinger promptly atoned for his prior attack error when he reeled off seven straight service winners to vault the Knights to a commanding 12-3 lead. Jones had four kills during the run.
“I kept telling them that we had to have a fast start,” Schultz said about his speech to the team before the fifth set. “We knew we had the better servers, but we didn’t necessarily serve well tonight. I thought our fast start was important. We had that big lead, but Jewish Day didn’t quit. I started to get a little nervous toward the end.”
After trailing 12-3, Jewish Day rallied to get within 13-8 before a service error by Jonathan Isreal brought the Knights to match point. Satterthwaite then followed with a service error of his own and Josh Myers followed with a kill that brought the visitors with 14-10. But with Noah Green serving for Jewish Day, Jones recorded the kill that ended the match.
“When we got here late and did not have much time to warm up, I thought we were going to get swept,” Dudash said. “They had handled us twice before and all things considered I wasn’t expecting to win a game. But our guys played hard. They played with a lot of energy.”
The first two sets could not have been more opposite. Grace got five straight service winners from Jones midway through the set to forge a commanding 20-10 lead en route to a 25-17 victory. Jewish Day dominated the middle stages of the second set and gained a 15-5 lead after seven straight service winners from Green and cruised to a 25-18 win.
Jewish Day led 14-10 midway through the third set before the Knights rallied to take that game 25-21. Grace appeared headed for a win in the fourth set when staked to a 20-16 lead, but Jewish Day closed the game on a 10-4 run to force a fifth-set tiebreaker.