Men’s volleyball topples San Ramon Valley High in their first game of the season


Jade Wang

Gavin Kristic sets Sindhunandan Udhayakumar up for an outside kill.

Jade Wang and Sneha Cheenath

The Wildcats defeated San Ramon Valley High School 3-1 in the first men’s volleyball game of the season, losing the first set 16-25 and winning the next three by scores of 25-22, 25-22 and 27-25 (respectively.)

The first set began in favor of Dougherty as SRV served out of bounds. Primary outside hitter Ethan Tsao scored an early kill that put the Wildcats in a two point lead. Libero William Nyugen kept the ball in-system with consistently solid digs to setter Rio Krauss. After a serve from SRV skimmed the net, Nguyen successfully pancaked for it, but SRV responded with a quick block that landed the ball directly into a hole in Dougherty’s defense, which began a short point streak by the Wolves at 6-6. 

A few unforced hitting errors and unstrategic tip placements by the Wildcats kept SRV in the lead. SRV’s momentum continued to build as Dougherty proceeded to miss serves and hit the ball out of bounds, eventually manifesting into a nine point lead. Halfway through the set, there were a few exciting, sloppy rallies, with one-handed passes on both sides of the net and out-of-system swings. Tsao and setter Gavin Kristic both got a kill off SRV’s block as the set came to a close, but the Wolves ultimately prevailed after Dougherty swung out of bounds and ended the set 16-25. 

“One of my middle blockers [Marco Esteban] is out right now, so we had to kind of adjust our lineups. And so that made it a little difficult,” Head Coach Regina Conley explained. 

Set two started weak with a missed serve by Kristic and slow defense to cover blocks. Conley reminded the players, “Big hole in the block!,” encouraging them to tighten their defense. Outside hitter Carson Tetik soon evened out the score with three kills within the first five points on both sides. The middle of the set was characterized mostly by strong swings off SRV’s block by middle blocker (primary outside hitter) Sindhunandan Udhayakumar that landed out of bounds. After a service ace by Kristic at 12-8, Dougherty let the ball drop through a hole in their block, which allowed SRV to catch up with a score of 13-11. 

Conley acknowledged the holes in Dougherty’s defense, explaining, “You have to keep your feet moving: when you make contact with the ball, that’s when you stop. But if you’re standing flat footed, it’s very difficult to play defense. So that is one thing that we work on every day of practice.”

Udhayakumar slowed down SRV with two service aces. Middle Alexander Daveynis continued Dougherty’s point spread with a well placed solo block. A well placed tip by Kristic and three unforced errors on SRVs side of the net helped Dougherty maintain their five point lead, which they carried all the way to 22 points. Following an out of bounds shot from Dougherty, the scoreboard went blank and returned 21-19. 

Conley confirmed this discrepancy, explaining “that was a result of somebody not doing their job at the scores table… that will not happen at another home game anytime this season.”

The scorekeepers never added back the Wildcats’ lost point, but it was irrelevant after kills from Udhayakumar and a strategically timed tip carried Dougherty to their winning score of 25-22. 

Dougherty opened the third set strong with three consecutive kills, either down through a gap in SRV’s block or off their block and out. At 5-1, a service line foot fault by Tsao turned the ball over to SRV. But not long after, at 7-4, Tetik, Udhayakumar and Krauss took back control with a massive triple block. With a few fast tips by Tetik to keep the ball alive, another stuff block by Udhayakumar (and Kristic) and a service error by SRV, the Wolves called a timeout at 11-4. Immediately after the timeout, SRV sided out with a stuff block of their own by middle Jackson Decker. The Wildcats struggled to maintain momentum with a double called on Krauss and lack of cover behind blocks, and ended up calling their own timeout at 14-14. 

Following the timeout, Tetik scored an aggressive outside kill and smart tips over SRV’s block. Aided by a few unforced hitting errors by the Wolves, Dougherty retook the lead and prompted SRV to take their second timeout at 22-19. SRV managed to keep up in the last few points, but Tsao pushed Dougherty to 24-22 with an unexpected kill on an out-of-system play. A miscommunication between SRV’s setter and middle on set brought the score to 25-22, closing out the set with another Wildcat win. 

The fourth and final set began with a service ace by Kristic and a strong swing by Tsao. SRV suffered early unforced errors and struggled to cover Dougherty’s blocks, granting the Wildcats a four-point lead at 6-2. 

“Defense, I believe, is the key to winning any of these games. If your opponent cannot get the ball to the floor, they don’t score. It’s very simple,” Conley said. 

After a few hits by Tetik and Krauss and another service ace by Kristic, Dougherty was comfortably ahead at 13-8. However, SRV scored a few service aces of their own. With a couple of off-sets and missed kill opportunities by the Wildcats, SRV caught up at 17-17, forcing Dougherty to call a time-out. Right after the timeout, Kristic took two great swings on opposite sides of the court in the same rally to help Dougherty side out. A strong kill by Tsao followed by a solid block by Kristic then forced SRV to call their first time out of the set at 20-17. Dougherty’s energy levels increased throughout the set; an impressive back-set by Krauss that led to a cross-court kill by Kristic sent the team’s enthusiasm through the roof. A few stray touches and unforced errors on both sides of the net brought the score to a tie at 23-23, and then again at 25-25. Tsao scored an unsuspecting kill in the right-back corner of SRV’s side of the net, ending the set at 27-25 and solidifying Dougherty’s first win of the season. 

“I’ve known these guys since they were freshmen and they have gone up with me, with the exception of the COVID year, which was a little crazy for everybody. I’ve seen these guys come in when they started, I’ll see them finish. This is what a program is,” Conley said.