On Tuesday evening, the Nature Coast Tech Sharks Volleyball team (2-1) blanked the Central Bears (1-5) by a 3-0 margin at the Bears Den. Coming into the matchup, the home team was on a three-game losing streak in which they had been defeated in the first three sets each time. The team in navy nearly took one set late, but the visitors dug deep and came back to preserve the sweep. Sharks Head Coach Emily Gore was pleased with her team’s performance, especially in the penultimate set, but the close call in set three was less than ideal.
“So, set two, we felt really good about,” Coach Gore said. “We finished that one 25-12, but we thought we had really good control, which started with our serving. I’m going to count it up in a second… but we had a ton of aces in that second set. Third set not so happy with. I think a lack of focus just finishing, going up 2-0, getting lax as a team. So, that obviously needs to be better.”
The Bears got off to a fast start in the opening frame as they nabbed a 6-3 lead thanks in part to a pair of favorable serves by Junior DS/OH Jimica Paul. A pair of poor Central serves were then stopped short by the net to close the gap. A barrage of scores by the Sharks followed shortly thereafter. Three kills in four points on their eighth, ninth, and eleventh points gave the visitors their first multi-score lead of the set. Junior OH/MH Addison Carpenter logged key scores, including the first of the three kills and a kill that ended the set 25-15 in the visitors’ favor.
The scoreboard would also show a lopsided 25-12 advantage for Nature Coast to end the second stanza. However, that score alone does not reveal how heavily the period was dominated by Coach Gore and company. Junior Amanda Tirado put in work early in the set as she served up three of the Sharks’ 21 aces as the visitors raced out to a 7-0 lead. The visitors would register 14 of the next 17 points en route to a gaudy 21-3 lead. Some mistakes began to happen that would bleed over into the final frame, though, as the home team scored six straight points before the Sharks put the set away.
The final frame was the most hotly contested, as the Bears would dig out of an early 5-1 hole to lead or tie their cross-town rivals for much of the period. They failed to hang on despite a 21-18 lead when the Sharks turned up the heat and scored seven of the final eight points of the match. Senior Ava Pontrelli played lights out late, as she was responsible for a kill, an ace, and a hit that would result in Central being called for a carry. Thanks to this, Coach Gore’s squad managed to steal the sweep on the road. After the game, the head coach singled out an aspect she wants her team to continue working on moving forward.
“Serve receive has kind of been a focus for us – getting better in serve receive,” Coach Gore said. “Just being more consistent on that first pass, so we can send an aggressive ball over the net on that first ball.”
Looking ahead to their next outing, Nature Coast will travel on Wednesday to face the Lecanto Panthers at 7:30. The Brooksville-based squad will continue to emphasize serve-receiving and hope to avoid focus-related mistakes on the road. The home team will look to break their four-game losing streak as they also travel on Wednesday to take on the Citrus Hurricanes at 7:30.