With the game tied at 12, Gruber served six straight points for the Colonels, giving No. 10 Magruder a lead it would not surrender and capping off a 25-23, 25-19, 25-21 home victory over the hornets.
“She’s our best all-around player. She passes well, she plays good defense, she serves well, she blocks well. She hits the hell out of the ball,” Magruder head coach Scott Zani said. “When we get her a good set, Jesus. I mean she elevates high… Teams can’t stop her.”
Gruber was dominant both offensively and defensively Wednesday night, hammering home a team-high 12 kills and recording 9 digs, 4 behind junior Brittany EauClaire’s team-leading 13. Junior Katie Chisarick was a force form the service line with 6 aces against the Hornets, while junior Xena Metzger chipped in with 3 blocks.
By handing Damascus its first loss of the season, Magruder secured what will likely be the most impressive win on a regular season schedule that does not include either of Montgomery County’s other two undefeated teams, Walter Johnson and Sherwood. Magruder has dropped just 3 sets all year and has 6 regular season games remaining, 4 of which will come against teams that currently boast winning records.
The Colonels earned the win despite playing from behind early in each of the three sets, part of a larger strategy that Zani utilized to create mismatches that favored his team. By sacrificing the match’s first rotation, the Colonels were able to match their top servers against Damascus’ weaker passers, a strategy that led to three Magruder scoring runs of five points or more, including an eight-point run in the second set with Chisarick serving that turned a 16-13 deficit into a 21-16 lead.
“We took a calculated risk. We felt like our best match-up was starting the way we started, and we knew that first rotation was going to be a struggle for us,” Zani said. “We felt like if we could minimize the damage in that rotation, the other five rotations were to our advantage. And that’s sort of how it fell tonight.”
Gruber said that such a convincing victory against such a tough opponent would serve as a confidence boost later in the season and into the playoffs, but for the moment she seemed content simply to revel in the Colonels’ victory.
“It’s a definite high for us. I don’t know, I think I’m going to go late to school tomorrow just to celebrate a little more,” she said through a wide smile. “It’s super fun. I don’t know, it’s going to be the talk of the school.”