Mount de Sales volleyball coach Tuan Nguyen speaks of Mary Grace Goyena like a seasoned varsity veteran, an outside hitter who is counted on to perform at a high level regularly and be a vocal leader.
When you watch Goyena play, she checks all the boxes a volleyball coach craves, along with a degree of enthusiasm that she exudes on the court.
On Tuesday night, Goyena playing in just her sixth career varsity game and added to the buzz surrounding No. 7 Mount de Sales, powered the Sailors on decisive runs with 14 kills and a perfect 5-for-5 from the service line to help dispatch host McDonogh in straight sets, 25-19, 25-8, 25-13.
Goyena is one of three freshmen on Mount de Sales who play for the Columbia Volleyball Club, which played in the 14U Girls’ Volleyball National Championships this past year.
“It’s her energy. [Mary Grace] brings a lot of energy into the game. Being a freshman, it’s really, really good that she’s stepping up,” Nguyen said. “[The players] look up to her. We expect a lot out of her. She brings good experience from high-level playing.”
The three freshmen – Goyena, Hanna Katulski and Chidinma Onukwugha – along with five returning players from last year are off to a 5-1 start overall and are leaps and bounds ahead of last fall when they went 9-9.
Nguyen says the team is bringing more energy from the onset into contests and the need to be multi-dimensional has paid dividends.
“I think we learned a lot from last year and what we needed to do to balance our game,” Nguyen said. “My focus this year is to make sure we are that well-balanced team. Make sure we have good defense and offense and be well-disciplined in our setting, our hitting, our passing.”
Mount de Sales brought all of the above into McDonogh’s Louis E. Lamborn Alumni Memorial Field House on Tuesday night.
The Sailors jumped out to an early lead in the first set and, despite the Eagles’ best effort to wipe the deficit away – cutting a seven-point Sailor lead to 16-14 – Mount de Sales outscored McDonogh 9-5 down the wire to take a 25-19 first set victory.
Abby Kuhn (six kills, 10-for-10 servings and one ace) accounted for four kills over the put-away stretch while Camille Kreisel (15-for-15 serving, 20 assists and three digs) added a pair of assists.
In the second set, Mount de Sales quickly took a 4-0 lead with three straight aces from Kreisel and a Kreisel-to-Goyena kill. Behind blocks from Kyah Reid and Krisey Nedd, McDonogh responded with a 5-2 swing to bring the game to 6-5 moments later.
After that, the Sailors exploded on a 19-3 run to cap their second straight set win.
Kuhn provided a pair of kills and an ace early in the sizeable run and Goyena accounted for five of the Sailors’ final 14 points with jarring spikes and kills into the heart of the Eagles defense.
Kreisel topped the second set, a 25-8 throttling, with back-to-back aces that concluded a 10-0 run.
“We work hard at [serving]. They focus on where to serve to,” Nguyen said. “We practice that all the time, making sure they always serve to each position and that they’re always mixing things up.
“I also liked the fact that our bench came off and played really well. That was a good test. They were kind of sluggish in the first set, but I talk to them and say, ‘Hey, we have to have a good bench.’ And they came through.”
In the third set, the lead changed hands nine times before either side could reach double-figures.
When it was in a 6-6 stalemate, rattling kills by Goyena, Onukwugha and Monica Wallace (7-for-7 servings and 12 assists) and three straight aces by Katulski triggered a 9-0 run that stretched the Sailor lead to 15-6.
The Eagles pulled to within seven shortly after, but couldn’t get any closer as Mount de Sales unloaded the bench and celebrated its fifth victory of the season.
“It’s been great. We’ve all played so well,” Goyena said. “We just work really well as a team. … We just stayed focused when we had those big leads because you can never know what can happen in a game like that.”
Mount de Sales’ Malina Beideman went 15-for-15 serving with two aces and eight digs.
As for McDonogh (1-6 overall), coach Kristina Wells was all smiles after her Eagles dropped their sixth in seven games to open the season.
“We’re very young. We only have two seniors and are underclassmen heavy. I love the progress that I saw today,” Wells said. “We’ve played a lot of good teams early on, and Mount de Sales is one of them. They’re very good. But I loved how our girls kept fighting.”