About to make the turn into the second half of Coast Conference South play, Gavilan College women’s volleyball coach Kevin Kramer sensed his team required a shake up. It’s not as though the Rams, who are currently in a three-way tie for first place – haven’t performed. But like an iPod playlist that keeps repeating the same songs, Kramer knew hitting the shuffle button would excite everyone.
An energized Gavilan group took well to the tweaks – which included swapping front row players Kayce Skocko and Tasmin Apple, and slipping Karina Daniels into the starting libero role – in a sweep of visiting Chabot (25-19, 25-16, 25-22) on Wednesday night, boosting the Rams to 4-1 in conference and 13-8 overall.
“We changed the lineup and moved some people around. We just needed to change it up, to spice it up. We just needed a different attack,” Kramer said. “We’ve done the exact same thing since the first match of the year and it kind of got stale, I think.”
Daniels, a freshman out of Gilroy High, didn’t disappoint during her first start at libero, collecting a team-high 24 digs and coming close to a school record for most aces in a match – aces her teammates refer to as game changers.
“There’s definitely pressure back there,” Daniels said of her responsibilities. “But you have to stay focused.”
Daniels recorded seven aces (the second most in program history behind Suzie Schaefer in 2009), with one, coming as Gavilan trailed 22-21, that did change the course of Game 3. The ace knotted the set and Gavilan went on to earn the next three points to close out the set and match.
“Defensively, Karina in the back row, what a night,” Kramer said. “I thought Tasmin did a good job on the outside. I thought Kayce did a good job on the right side. And it’s nice to have a set of hands out there, where she can set the middle. It was little bit cleaner offensively. I think we were able to put together some better attacks.”
Apple and fellow freshman Jessica Stofer each posted seven kills, one less than Eva Latu, who landed eight kills. Skocko finished with four kills. Sabina Gerard had 23 assists out of her setter position.
“I felt kind of off, but the team pulled together and I had to bring my game up too,” Latu said.
Chabot (10-8 overall, 2-2 conference) had the better start to the match and took an 11-7 lead in Game 1. But a Latu kill and Daniels ace jump-started a 10-0 Gavilan run to 17-11.
The Rams had 11 aces in total on the night, and Apple’s second of Game 1 shut the door on the set. Latu and Xitlalli Bobadilla had the other aces for the Rams later in the match.
It was 8-0 before Chabot registered a point in Game 2, and after three consecutive aces from Daniels, the Rams had built a 22-5 cushion. They’d actually need all of that room, as the Gladiators roared back late in the set before a Stofer tip point put an end to it.
The Gladiators carried some of that momentum into a tight Game 3. Neither side led by more than five points, with Chabot ahead by two as deep into the set as 22-20.
“When everybody plays to their full potential and does their job on the court, we battle,” Andreinna Castaneda said. “We just have to keep our energy up.”
It shouldn’t take too much extra effort to charge the Rams levels for Friday’s matchup against Foothill, which along with Ohlone – the team responsible for Gavilan’s lone South loss – are the Rams’ company at the top of the standings.
The Rams defeated the Owls, who won the Coast Conference North last season, in three sets in the teams’ previous meeting.
“We will see what happens,” Kramer said. “It should be fun down the stretch. If anything, it will be exciting.”
After Foothill, four matches remain in the regular season. Should the Rams place second or better, they will lock up a fourth straight postseason spot.
Friday’s match with Foothill is at home with first serve slated for 6:30 p.m.