When teammates are friends on and off the court, it creates excellent chemistry, and that can be the key to winning big games.
The Thomas Dale boys’ volleyball team knows all about team chemistry, and that has given them the edge in a few close games, including their five-set victory against 6A foe Clover Hill.
“They’re all friends on and off the court,” said Thomas Dale coach Josh Forbes. “They all fight and care for each other.”
On top of the great chemistry, the team also has a lot of experience. Three seniors on the team have had starting roles since their sophomore year, as opposed to last year, when the top hitter was only a second-year volleyball player.
Hunter Vay is one of the seniors. He leads the team in kills as a sophomore, but didn’t play last year because he was pursuing a baseball scholarship, which he earned at VCU. This year, he is back and even better.
“He is our workhorse,” said Forbes. “One of the top players in the state.”
Vay’s kill rate this year is at over 50 percent, and is nearing a school record in kills. Will Ragland currently holds the school record with his 406 kills in 2013. With two games left, Vay is just over 40 kills away from breaking the prestigious record.
Zach Joyner, one of the other seniors, is having a great year as well from the middle hitter role. He is the team’s big blocker and a great leader.
Those key moments’ included going 15 for 19 on swings in the Clover Hill win and spearheading the attempted comeback against Douglas Freeman.
Although the Knights couldn’t take down Douglas Freeman, Forbes said it was the best game the team played all year. Thomas Dale was down 2-0 and ended up taking Freeman, one of the best teams in the state, into five sets before losing 15-12.
Last year, Thomas Dale finished 11-9 on the season, and while it still had a winning record, it was definitely a season that could be improved on. This year, after returning multiple starters and already notching a 13-3 record, the Knights will be hungry for a deep-postseason run.
Their postseason was cut short last year with a loss to Cosby in the conference semifinals. Although Conference 3 has some tough teams, including defending state champion James River, the Thomas Dale team is a very skilled team can match up well.
“We are going to take it one match at a time,” said Forbes. “This team has the talent to go real far, but we have to win the first round game first.”
With the way the conference standings are looking right now, that elusive first-round playoff game is projected to be against Cosby, the same team that knocked the Knights out last season.
The first game in the Conference 3 playoffs is the conference semifinals, so just one win would put the Knights into the state tournament. That fact alone makes the first round playoff game meaningful.