Women’s Varsity Volleyball Finishes Season With DCSAA Win

The women’s varsity volleyball team celebrates during the DCSAA quarterfinal game on Nov. 9. Photo by Olivia Brown.

The women’s varsity volleyball team beat St. John’s College High School 3–1 in the championship match of the D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA) tournament on Friday, Nov. 11. The week before, the team lost to Flint Hill in the Independent School League (ISL) finals, finishing second in the league.

The championship game took place at the University of the District of Columbia’s gym, and the stands were packed with GDS students, family members and faculty. Members of the fan section, who wore green and white, waved a GDS flag and multiple homemade signs. 

The day before the championship, the first-seed Hoppers played twelfth-seed Model Secondary School for The Deaf in the tournament’s semifinal and won 3–0 with scores of 25–11, 25–11 and 25–9 for each set. GDS got an early 5–0 lead in the beginning set but started to give up easy points. Sophomore Alexa Gillespie helped the team rally back and scored two points off her serves. In the second and third set, GDS was steady with their lead and continued to play strongly. 

The first set of the championship began with second-seed St. John’s jumping out to an early lead, going up by seven points. GDS battled back, tying the score at 23. In volleyball, to win a set you must win by two points, so though GDS got to 25 first, the set wasn’t over. The teams traded points until GDS put St. John’s away with a serve by junior setter Clara Yu and won the set 27–25. 

In the second set, GDS again started off behind, but quickly got a lead and cruised to a 25–19 win. Yu was a standout player in the second set, assisting many kills for the Hoppers. 

In the third set, St. John’s took an early lead again, with a score of 14–6. On a play halfway through the set, sophomore Jada Aksu spiked the ball at a St. John’s player who wasn’t able to save it. The point was not awarded to the Hoppers—there was an errant ball on the court, which the referees ruled interfered with the play, much to the disdain of the GDS fans. The teams continued, but GDS was not able to mount a comeback in the third set, losing 25–15.

“When we were down, it was just about confidence and belief in ourselves,” head coach Brandon Wiest said after the game. “We kept going, kept fighting, and the players dug us out of that hole.”

The fourth set began the same way as the third, with St. John’s leading, this time by a score of 13–6. GDS went on a run, however, tying the game at 16 points each. It was a very tight contest from there, and GDS led 24–23. A St. John’s player’s serve was out of bounds, and the game ended with GDS winning the fourth set 25–23.  

The GDS players and fans rushed the court and celebrated together until the gym closed. Several members of the class of 2022 were at the game and congratulated the players after it ended. 

The game was the last for the senior members of the team, including senior and team manager Drew Cowan, who has been with the team for years. “This is just so big,” Cowan said after the game. “Especially after last year, coming up just short, this is the perfect ending for the perfect team.” GDS lost in the DCSAA finals to Wilson in the 2021 season.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” senior and captain Isadora Evers said. “I couldn’t ask for a better ending to my senior season.”

Wiest echoed Evers’ sentiment. “This means everything,” he said. “It was really this senior group that pulled us through, and it’s going to be a big loss, but we have confidence in this team.”

Yu was named most valuable player during the awards ceremony after the game. “We just trusted ourselves, trusted the work we put in and trusted the process,” Yu said.

Sabine Hletko Wood contributed reporting.

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