By Jeremy Balan
Mercy High School’s 25-20, 25-19, 25-19 win over Crystal Springs Uplands of Hillsborough in both team’s West Bay Athletic League opener had aspects of nearly every high school volleyball game.
Screaming aces, thundering kills and athletic digs were commonplace, but it was the play of one of the smallest players on the court that grabbed hold of momentum for the Skippers.
Senior captain and setter Lauren Tom set up Mercy hitters with 26 assists, but kept the Crystal Springs defense off-balance with four set kills on second contact. Each one seemed to lead to a Mercy run.
“She has a good outlook of what’s on the court before she sets,” said Mercy head coach Locke Chin. “She makes those decisions like a quarterback. ”
Tom also had two aces in the match.
“It was a pretty big game for us,” Tom said. “I have a connection with our hitters, but they all have different qualities.”
Tom’s favorite target was outside hitter Monica Garret, who had a match-high nine kills, and Courtney Sabahi, who had eight. Sabahi was held down in the first two games by a Crystal Springs block that was keyed on her, but rallied back for five kills in the third game.
In all, seven Mercy players recorded kills.
“There has been a dramatic improvement from day one,” Chin said. “Now I have a team that is in a good position to challenge anyone in league, as long as they continue to grow.”
Mercy’s performance was impressive, but at many points in the match, Crystal Springs dictated play, whether through efficient attacks or unforced errors. The Gryphons looked dominant at times, but out of sync at other times, and could not overcome 31 unforced errors.
“We had a lot of unforced errors, but part of that was caused by Mercy,” said Crystal Springs head coach Steven Cavella. “When we play them the second time around, hopefully we can do a little bit better with that.”