With every senior player’s family members in the bleachers for Senior Night on Oct. 17, the Cavs were ready to possibly play their last game of the season – a loss would mean they wouldn’t go to playoffs.
And the spectators knew the stakes too. The students watching the games were decked out with eye blacks, and math teacher Patricia Jacobsen made posters for all the seniors.
Though starting with a Buckingham player at the service line, the Cavs quickly turned the game in their favor with a hit from senior Lia Kaufman winning them the first point.
The Cavs held a momentary 3-point lead before the Knights quickly caught up, and the teams started alternating points.
The girls tied once more at 10-10, but the Knights pushed through and established their first lead of the game.
The Cavs kept up the fight but weren’t able to regain their lead, causing the Knights to win the first set 22-25.
“After losing the first set as such a close game, we realized we could beat them,” Kaufman said.
And the team’s newfound motivation paid off.
The girls once more took an early 10-3 lead.
As the game progressed, the Buckingham girls tried to shorten the lead but were unsuccessful as the Cavs continued to approach match point.
And with a 9-point lead, the Cavs won the second set 25-16.
“Let’s go, Cavs! Let’s go!” the crowd roared as the third set started.
“Not a lot of people show up for our home games, so I think all the people there motivated us to play more, play harder and play smarter,” junior Alyssa Valverde said.
“Everybody knowing it might be our last game really helped us play hard and pushed everyone to help each other.”
Following the same trend as the last set, the girls once again established a commanding 11-3 lead.
Making sure not to repeat events of the first set, the girls won the set with Buckingham having only seven points.
Once again, the Cavs started strong in the fourth set. But the Knights didn’t let the Cavs take the win easily, attempting a comeback at 11-8.
But as the shouts from the crowd got louder, the girls finished the fourth and final set 25-18, securing their spot in the playoffs.
“I feel great about that game,” coach Jason Kreps said. “I feel like we’re climbing a mountain, and we’re exactly where we want to be.
“If we play well, we could take on anyone.”
But for the senior players and their families, the night didn’t end when the game did.
Seniors Tori Van Vleck, Heidi Johnson, Bella Mathisen and Kaufman received flowers, signed volleyballs and speeches from the other players.
The players also got gift baskets from the team filled with cookies, a Lush bath bomb, a Starbucks reusable cup and more goodies.
Sophomore Bri Davies, one of the team’s three coaches, wrote a speech that had the players crying, as she choked up while saying the team wouldn’t be the same without the seniors.
“I started tearing up when (junior Alyssa Valverde) gave my speech,” Van Vleck said. “ I was really emotional because I’ve played volleyball for so many years, and I’ve been at Country Day for so many years, so it was crazy to think about the fact that was ending.”
Van Vleck went on to talk about how appreciative she was of Valverde’s words thanking her for her leadership on the team.
“All the seniors performed really well tonight, and they’ve been playing great all year,” Kreps said.
“It’s been fun watching them do something they really love and seeing them inspire the underclassmen too.”
With this game, the girls have secured their spot in the playoffs. According to Kreps, the next game will likely be on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at home.
—By Mehdi Lacombe