Volleyball Squad Vanquishes Male Challengers in Lunchtime Battle

Seniors from the women’s varsity volleyball team celebrate their victory on March 17. Photos by Reid Alexander.

Six of the women’s varsity volleyball team’s seniors defeated a team of senior boys from the Nets Club in two straight sets, 25–19 and 20–15, on March 17. 

The game was a long time in the making, as it was originally proposed after the women’s team made it to the D.C. state finals in the fall. “We were watching [the women’s team], and we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that,’” senior Ben Freedman, a captain of the men’s team, said. 

Senior Pallavi Bhargava, captain of the women’s varsity volleyball team, also believed that the men’s team had some merit. “I had played volleyball with these boys on the senior trip a lot, and they were actually really good,” she said. However, she was still confident that her team would win. “I didn’t think they really had a chance at beating the varsity team, because we actually play and had been practicing five days a week,” she added in reference to the fall volleyball season. 

The men’s team practiced at Nets Club meetings through the winter and early spring and were coached by juniors and co-heads of the club Lucy Mezey, Izzy Auerswald and Drew Cowan. 

On the day of the match, the men’s team took the court wearing the Red Barons intramural uniforms from the GDS middle school. After the fans filled the bleachers, the women’s team came into the gym and took the other side in their uniforms from the fall season. Bhargava was impressed with the crowd. “It was the biggest turnout, more than any of our home games,” she said. “It was really great to see the student section turn out; it felt like fall sports again.”

Seniors Jeremy Grace and Bruno Sullivan on the court during the game.

The women’s team had not played together since the end of their season, and, according to Freedman, two of the players had not played on a volleyball club team outside of school during the hiatus. 

The women’s lack of team coordination was clear early in the match, as Freedman scored four points during his serve, helping the men jump to a 6–3 lead. Senior Noah Shelton scored the men’s fifth point with a powerful spike, sparking loud cheers from the crowd. The set remained close, and a string of missed serves by both sides brought the score to 10–10. 

The men’s team regroups after losing a point.

However, the women’s team pulled away with an eight-point serve by Bhargava. After the match, she told the Bit about her approach to serving. “Our goal was to serve aggressively,” she said. “I served straight down the line and across the court because those are harder angles to pass from, and also because I have more practice serving to those spots.” 

While senior Max Burns built up some momentum with a four-point serve late in the game, it was not enough to mount a comeback for the men’s team. After winning a point off Burns’ serve, the women’s team finished off the first set, winning by a score of 25–19. 

The two teams switched sides of the court for the second set, which was truncated to be played to 20 points instead of the usual 25 due to the approaching end of the lunch period. Once again, the set started evenly, but only up to a 4–4 score. Bhargava’s serve, which had downed the Nets Club team in the first set, was stifled quickly. Despite the men counteracting Bhargava’s serve, the women’s team slowly pulled away, matching each serve from the men with more points of their own. 

Seniors Lizzie Rosenman and Claire Cooper celebrate after the women’s team scored a point.

While the men’s team had a string of points scored on spikes by senior hitters Luke Flyer, Burns and Shelton, they could not break even for the rest of the game, and eventually fell 20–15. 

Despite the loss, Mezey had positive remarks about the men’s team’s performance. “I was very proud of what they did,” she said. “I think they went to their fullest potential.” 

Freedman, however, was more critical than Mezey. “Our biggest weakness was serves and the serve receive,” he said. “Our back row wasn’t communicating well. I was going for balls without calling for it.” 

Though disappointed by his team’s play, Freedman was keen to play another game against the women’s team. “I don’t know if my team would be on board, but I think it would be fun later in the year to do a rematch,” he said. 

CORRECTION (April 2): A previous version of this article did not include junior Izzy Auerswald in a list of Nets Club co-heads who coached the men’s team. Auerswald coached the team alongside Mezey and Cowan.

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