Men’s Volleyball narrowly falls to Dublin in five sets


Jade Wang

Middle blocker Marco Esteban serves a float.

Jade Wang and Sneha Cheenath

Dougherty Valley men’s volleyball fell to Dublin 3-2 on March 29, losing the first two sets 25-16 and 25-23, respectively, winning the next two 27-25 and 25-22, respectively, and losing the tiebreaker set 15-11. 

The first set started strong for DV with a smart tip by Marco Esteban and solid serving by Gavin Kristic. However, Dublin caught up quickly as Dougherty struggled to keep their hits within bounds and respond to Dublin’s smart ball placements. A service ace by Alexander Daveynis and a strong hit down by Kristic countered Dublin’s offense, and Sindhunandan Udhayakumar and Ethan Tsao both scored notable kills to keep the Wildcats and Gaels within two points. But Dublin’s pin hitter Ashton Florentin shifted the momentum in favor of Dublin as he scored a powerful kill in between the back seams, bringing the score to 19-15. With a strong jump serve, Florentin scored three service aces in the deep back court.

The Wildcats started to get noticeably quiet on the court, which led to a dropped freeball and players colliding in miscommunication. Florentin continued on a six-point run with a few more service aces and a kill down the right sideline, ending the set 25-16. Set two began in Dougherty’s favor with a kill through the block by Daveynis. But immediately after the first point, Florentin scored four kills in a row. On his fourth kill, there was a promising effort by Udhayakumar to chase down the ball on a shanked first touch, and an even more impressive third touch by Carson Tetik as he kicked the ball backwards over the net, albeit in vain.

Dougherty started to seriously trail the Gaels 8-4 after Dublin’s Kevin Zhu scored an explosive back-court kill and Florentin racked up another three points. Kristic acknowledged that slowing down Florentin was a serious struggle for the Wildcats, noting that the team had “trouble adjusting to his play” as a left-handed opposite hitter. 

“We definitely could have gotten our blocks and defense to work better with him,” Kristic said.

After a miscommunication on Dougherty’s side of the net at 10-5, Head Coach Regina Conley called a timeout. A noticeable difference in the Wildcat’s offense in the first few sets was the switch up with the setters — with Krauss absent from the game, Kristic split the setting role with Tsao and Udhayakumar, both primary outside hitters. 

“Ethan and Sindhu are all-around players and they’re able to play outside of their position,” Kristic said. 

Immediately after the timeout, Dougherty committed two unforced hitting errors, and failed to cover an attempted block by Tetik and Esteban, bringing the score to 13-5. Mid-set, Dougherty switched back to a 5-1, with Kristic back as the primary setter. After the switch, Tsao was able to score two consecutive kills: one cross-court swing and touch off the block, and one swing down the back court line, moving the Wildcats forward to 17-11. The momentum shifted in Dougherty’s favor after Tsao’s two-point run, with Zhu committing an unforced hitting error and Dublin’s defense overpassing a serve that resulted in Tetik slamming it back down.

Tsao scored another kill through the block, prompting Dublin to substitute Florentin into the game at 18-15. The next few points featured a few good swings on both sides, as well as a few hitting errors. At 23-20, Esteban hit the ball straight down on an overpass, and at 23-21, Tetik served an ace, forcing Dublin to call their first timeout of the set. After a long rally, the Wildcats dive after a ball but unfortunately hit it off the ceiling, ending the set 25-23. 

A Dublin kill put the first point of the third set on the scoreboard, setting the tone for the early points of the set. Florentin scored the second point with another kill, and Dublin followed up with the third point after serving an ace off Tsao. A service error turned the ball over to Dougherty, but an unforced hitting error immediately after put it right back in Dublin’s court with Zhu serving. At 6-1, Florentin scored a cross-court kill through the block, solidifying a six-point lead for the Gaels. Udhayakumar and Tsao get a few great swings in the next few points, allowing the Wildcats to catch up 9-6. Tetik and Esteban then score a few kills of their own, and Tetik’s hustle to a pass brings the score to a 12-12 tie.

With an ace serve by libero William Nguyen, Dougherty took the lead 14-13. After a few strong blocks by Dougherty and an out-of-system through Dublin’s block by Tetik, the Wildcats brought the score to 20-17. However, Dublin tightened the score soon after with Florentin scoring two brutal kills, forcing Dougherty to call a timeout at 24-23. The set continued to intensify following the timeout with Udhayakumar getting shut down by the Gaels’ block on 24-25, and then immediately scoring a kill through the block to tie the score. Finally, Dublin hit into the net, closing out the set 27-25 in the Wildcats’ favor.

Set four began with both teams fighting for points, tieing at 3-3 and 5-5 with notable kills by Florentin, Tetik and Esteban. Dougherty falls behind after Florentin scored a few deep shots, but Dublin is the first to call a timeout at 11-9. Following the timeout, Kristic scored an amazing kill straight down, bringing the score to 12-10. Dublin faltered with an unforced hitting error and a lift violation. After a successful dump by Kristic, the Wildcats tied with the Gaels 13-13. Florentin and Udhayakumar exchanged powerful kills, keeping the score close, but a two-point service run by Esteban then pushed the Wildcats ahead to 20-16, forcing Dublin to call their second timeout of the set.

Dougherty’s momentum slowed down temporarily after the next point was replayed by the referee’s discretion, with the rally eventually ending in favor of Dublin. However, the Wildcats bounced right back with Daveynis scoring a strong kill down and Dublin serving into the net immediately after. On 23-19, Kristic shut down an overpass with a strong hit back down the court, bringing the Wildcats to set point. Conley used Dougherty’s first timeout of the set at 24-21, after Florentin scored an impressive kill on an out-of-system pass. Nevertheless, the set ended 25-22 with a strong kill by Tetik. 

“We really stressed better communication so we could play better as a team and it ended up working,” Kristic said, regarding the Wildcats’ comeback. 

The tiebreaker set started with frenzied excitement as Dougherty scored a free point off a last-ditch freeball, a short service ace, and a strong kill by Tsao. The Wildcats’ early run ended with Udhayakumar tipping out, and Conley calling a timeout soon after as Dublin regained the lead 4-3. The score remained tight with both teams scoring touches off each others’ blocks, and Udhayakumar notably making two successful swings into the backcourt. After Udhayakumar served a lucky ace off the tape, the two teams were tied at 10-10.

However, Dougherty mishandled the ball in the next few points, resulting in a double and a lift being called. The Wildcats finally sided out 14-11 after Dublin served into the net, but unfortunately failed to catch up after Dublin’s middle Varun Venkatesh ended the set 15-11, finalizing Dublin’s victory. 

“For our next practices, we’re going to shift around more with players playing out of their positions,” Kristic said.