Above photo: Freshman Rams libero Isoke Springer saves a spike during the first set against Gavilan College Rams on September 16, 2016. (Photo By Franchon Smith/The Guardsman)
By Teddy Luther
After suffering their lone loss of the season to Gavilan College in their second match of the year on Friday, Sept. 9, the Rams were out for revenge when Gavilan came to City College for a rematch one week later.
They did not disappoint the home crowd. In a see-saw match where momentum shifted back and forth constantly, the Rams eventually put Gavilan away for good, winning the decisive fifth set 19-17.
“Today was way better,” sophomore outside hitter Kijana Best said. “We knew we didn’t play our best against them the first time.”
Best, along with freshman outside hitter Jennifer Quarters-Styles proved a dominant 1-2 punch throughout the match for City College, especially down the stretch in the final set.
The two combined to get kills on four of the final six points won for the Rams, with Best providing the final blow. Together, they totaled 53 of City’s 59 kills on the night. Through the first two weeks of the season, Quarters-Styles and Best rank second and fifth, respectively, in kills per set for the entire state.
“Going into the tournament last week and playing Gavilan in our first game, and not having one of our middles, our girls played a little scared,” head coach Saga Vae said. “I put in their heads for the rest of the tournament and this week to not play scared. Just go out and do what we do, which is play defense and keep balls alive so we can feed our outsides.”
Leading the way in the back row so far this season has been freshman libero Isoke Springer, who had a season-high 41 digs in the win over Gavilan.
The defensive play of Springer, along with Best, Quarters-Styles and freshman setter Pam Dungo has set the tone for City’s 7-1 start to the season.
Through the first two weeks of play, the Rams are second in the state in digs per set, at 21.4. Making up for nearly 40 percent of those, Springer is also second in the state in individual digs per set, at 8.13.
“Defense wins championships” is not just a football term. Everything starts with the passing game in volleyball, and the Rams defense is as good as anybody in the state right now.
“We’re getting better every single game, every set really,” Best said.
Providing a boost over the next few weeks for the Rams as they enter conference play will be the return of sophomore middle blocker Tatiana Jimenez, who was sidelined with a back injury to begin the year.
The addition of Jimenez will take some pressure off of Best and Quarters-Styles as Jimenez provides Dungo another very capable hitting option in the front row.
“I’ve only seen her in the summer when I first got here,” Dungo said. “I know she’s a power hitter and has really long arms. Any ball that comes to her, she’ll hit it.”
The Rams have two more preseason games before starting Coast-North Conference play Friday, Sept. 23 at Foothill College.