Thomas Dale Cruises Past Prince George
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Sep 21, 2012, 15:59
Thomas Dale senior Britton Spriggs (left) and junior John Kimenhour (middle) try for a block against Prince George sophomore Eddie Saunders in a Central District match on Thursday in Chester. The Knights swept the Royals in three sets (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTER – It was fast and brutally efficient. In short, it was vintage Knights volleyball.
Buoyed by 14 service aces and relentless outside hitting, the Thomas Dale boys volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 (25-7, 25-7, 25-12) Central District victory over visiting Prince George on Thursday in Chester. The win required less than an hour’s work and moved the Knights to 4-0 on the season, 3-0 in district play.
“We came out like I wanted us to and played at our level,” said Thomas Dale coach Mike Walker. “That’s what we have to do when we play teams that are a little weaker than us. Sometimes you lose focus and don’t get anything accomplished.”
Prince George came into the match unbeaten in three district outings, but the home team established dominance in the first game and rarely looked uncomfortable. After a brief back and forth, Thomas Dale closed with an 18-2 run to take the first set 25-7.
The Knights carried that momentum into the second game, riding the interior play of Ryan Bramble to another 25-7 win. Walker said Bramble, who made the move from outside hitter to middle blocker this year, has embraced his new role.
“He could be one of the best middles in the state,” Walker said of the 6-4 senior. “The key for us is to balance and to make sure we spread the ball out to all positions.”
The Knights were successful in that quest on this night, frequently wrong-footing the Royals with an offensive lineup that featured three hitters in lieu of a setter on the frontline. The aggressive formation is designed to create one-on-one situations at the net.
Outside hitters William Ragland and Britton Spriggs were the focal points, hammering home a seemingly ceaseless barrage of kills. Bramble and Spriggs contributed from the service line as well, tying teammate R.D. Nixon with three aces apiece.
Prince George posted its best showing in the final set. Paced by the inside play of junior Bryant Marks, the Royals managed to cut the deficit to 22-12 before the Knights claimed victory with three consecutive points.
“Dale is certainly the measuring stick in the Central District,” said second-year Prince George coach Dan Pulskamp. “They did what they needed to and my players didn’t. I think we got a little intimidated.”
Senior Ian Douglas led the Royals with 18 digs while Marks chipped in with eight. The Royals fell to 3-1 in the district, 3-4 overall.
“We’re getting better every game,” Pulskamp said. “This is a young team, so a lot of kids haven’t played at the varsity level before. But 3-1 in the district is a good start.”
Pulskamp said the Royals have set a team goal of finishing in the top four in the district and qualifying for the district tournament. A perennial powerhouse in the Central Region, Thomas Dale has its sights set a tad higher.
“The goal here is always to win a state championship,” Walker said. “We just try to work hard to get there.”
The last time Thomas Dale won the Group AAA crown was in 2007. Walker said that squad, which finished the season with a perfect 26-0 record, was characterized by its no-nonsense approach to every outing.
“We talk about focus and being mentally tough,” Walker said. “The team that won it in ’07 was very much the epitome of that. They never let anything fluster them. They only lost three sets that entire year.”
For what it’s worth, the unbeaten Knights have not dropped a set in four matches so far this season.
Thomas Dale junior William Ragland (20) sets the ball for Andrew Ray in a game against Prince George on Thursday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).