The Nova Classical Academy volleyball team has shown over the course of this season that height isn’t everything in that sport. In fact, it hasn’t stopped the Knights from being 18-4 overall and 5-2 in the Skyline Conference through October 7.

Coach Thomas Dobbs said that the team has been getting votes for inclusion in the top 10 in Class AA, but he wouldn’t be upset if that doesn’t happen. Like many coaches, he said his club really doesn’t need the extra attention. “I’d just as soon not have a target on our back,” he said.

Nova volleyball
Nova Classical Academy’s sister act on the volleyball court includes junior twins Allison (11) and Samantha Ball (10) flanking freshman sibling Ava (13). Photo by Brad Stauffer

Though they aren’t that tall, the Knights are fundamentally sound, maintain good ball control and have that often undefinable something known as chemistry.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group,” Dobbs said. “There’s not a lot of drama. They play every point out and they play together. Everyone plays her position very well.”

Nova, which usually goes about eight players deep in its rotation, has some pretty impressive athletes who play a lot bigger than their listed heights. And it’s no coincidence that the team has beaten some of the state’s elites this fall.

Perhaps the keynote accomplishment was winning the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (WEM) Invitational in early September. The Knights defeated the host WEM team, which was then rated among the top 10 in Class AA, in straight sets. In that same competition, they bested Cleveland, a top 10 team in Class A. And in perhaps their five-star feat, they ousted Minnetonka, then seventh in Class AAAA.

“We have quick arms and can score from a lot of different locations,” Dobbs said. “And we compete. We bring our best every time.”

Also on the list of Nova victims have been DeLaSalle and New Life Academy. The New Life triumph was significant because it came right after a tough defeat at the hands of Legacy Christian.

“We have quick arms and can score from a lot of different locations,” Dobbs said. “And we compete. We bring our best every time.”

Much of what the Knights do involves twin juniors Allison and Samantha Ball and their freshman sibling Ava. Allison, a 5-foot-6 setter, is the catalyst in Nova’s 5-1 offense. As this was written, she had amassed 483 assists to lead the team.

Dobbs firmly believes that Allison has a bright future ahead of her in college volleyball. “She’s fundamentally sound,” he said. “She’s very grounded and steady, and she’s very much a leader.”

Five-foot-10 Samantha is the prime recipient of those setups, logging 289 kills to lead the team. Ava is second with 261 kills. They both play outside hitter. At press time, Dobbs said that both Samantha and Ava were in the state’s top 20 in that category.

On defense, Nova boasts four players—the Ball girls and junior Katya Morse—who are in double figures in digs. That starts with Samantha with her 206 digs and works down to Allison with 127. No matter how opponents construct their offense, they’re in for some headaches.

Morse, a 5-foot-6 libero, has also posted 497 service receptions against only 39 receiving errors. As of the end of September, Dobbs said she was among the best in the state in those categories. “(She makes) some incredible digs and passes,” he said.

Cordelia Thomas, a junior 5-foot-10 right-side hitter, has good athletic skills and strong arms that make her invaluable as a blocker. Fern Fisher, a 5-foot-9 sophomore middle player, has adapted well to the position after playing the right side last season. Junior 5-foot-8 middle back Bella Arco, sophomore 5-foot-8 middle back Haven Purviance and junior 5-foot-5 defensive specialist Ashlynn Eull also fill their roles well.

Nova will face a rugged test when the Section 4AA playoffs begin on October 22. Dobbs likes his squad, but noted that making a good run in post-season play will require tenacity. “We’ll have to be at the top of our game,” he said.

— Bill Wagner

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