Comeback victory shows resiliency

The defending state champion boys volleyball team continued their dominance over conference foe Fort Zumwalt North on Thursday. In the end, the Spartans enjoyed a 2-0 victory, albeit not with as much ease as the box score would suggest.

The opening set showed the Spartans playing in their state championship form, with textbook ball control allowing them to make easy work of the visiting Cougars. The home team went on an impressive run of points down the stretch, highlighted by a smothering denial by senior middle blocker, No. 5, Bryce Marlin. Almost as suddenly as it started, the Spartans won the first set 25-15.

“We had few errors [in the first set] and got our serves in,” said senior right side hitter Alex Durfee.

The second set, however, did not play out as smoothly. The Cougars jumped out to an early lead, and the crisp ball handling displayed on the Spartans’ part in the first set was clearly something they struggled to find in their second go-round. According to Durfee, the team was giving the Cougars too many scoring opportunities.

“We gave them too many points,” Durfee said, “and couldn’t go on any runs with our serves.”

The drop in level of play buried the Spartans in a formidable point deficit, at one point trailing their Gateway Athletic Conference adversary 23-17. But a renewal of confidence by players such as sophomore Jordan Krumweide and junior Scott Halbert was enough to start a rally. According to head coach Mark McAfee, the resurgence in play was a collaborative effort.

“You know, overall, you win as a team [and] you lose as a team. And if you’re not playing as a team you’re not gonna win,” McAfee said. “It took a whole team effort to come back from that … we were down by a couple points, and I had every confidence in the world we were going to come back.”

Patience, along with timely blocks and impressive touch, allowed the varsity squad to acquire the comeback victory in the set, putting a notch in the wins column for the Spartans. This resilient, never-say-die attitude is a characteristic that McAfee particularly praises in this year’s team.

“We just play with a lot of intensity, and you can never count us out. Sometimes we give up some runs of points, but the kids never quit playing,” McAfee said of his club. “One of the most emotional, intense teams I’ve ever had. They just play with a lot of heart, they play smart, and when you do all those things and you find yourself down, you can always battle back.”

The comeback win may give the Spartans some much needed momentum as they enter a challenging stretch of games. Desmet lays nearest on the home schedule, followed by Spartans hitting the road to take on Fort Zumwalt West and the undefeated Westminster.

“It doesn’t get any easier from here,” McAfee said.