by MEL SUITER
File photo by ALICE MARY HERDEN
TAMPA, Fla. —- The breeze was off the world famous water of Tampa Bay, the night came quickly, but so did the end of the 2019 volleyball season for Nature Coast High Tech High School.
The Sharks showed heart and played with courage but Academy of the Holy Names defeated Nature Coast Tech High School 3-1, winning the Regional Title. Academy of Holy Names moves forward to the next level of the State of Florida High School 2019 Volleyball Tournament.
Nature Coast was in this position for a chance to play for the Regional Title by taking care of business and winning the district. They forced the Jaguares to play their best game of the season, to defeat a determined team of Sharks.
Academy of the Holy Names volleyball coach Randy Thomas said after the game that his team and coaching staff respect the Sharks. They knew that the Sharks could be dangerous if his team didn’t keep their focus.
“I liked the passion, the excitement, the intensity, not settling and going and going we really talked about it this match,” Thomas said after his team received the trophy. “It doesn't matter that we play them in the past. That could be the team's biggest down fall, so we said all week respect our opponents.”
Nature Coast worked hard in the first game of the match that set the pace for the Sharks for the entire match. The effort was evident as there were players from both teams making dives and digging the ball off of the floor.
They played Sharks style of volleyball which is to attack the net and when the chance opens up, hit the ball hard into the empty space.
Academy of the Holy Names also played an aggressive style of offense by looking for a chance to hit the ball hard back at the Sharks.
It was a battle between Academy of the Holy Names junior hitter Camryn McClendon and Sharks Madison Clark and her power return.
McClendon led her team with 11 kills, eight blocks, and her team mate junior Olivia Mortellaro finished the game with seven digs.
In the third game of the match the serve for the Sharks found some momentum and the offense for the Sharks started to look like the offense that they can produce.
The power hits by Clark and by her teammates started to find the holes in the Academy of the Holy Names’ defense. A mixture of shots and then the Sharks added a little finesse at the net with soft returns that caught the Jaguares defense off balance.
At the fourth set of the match, the Sharks had hope that they could keep the momentum and the two teams traded points but the Jaguars found their composure, regained their confidence and pulled the game out.
The season came to an end for the Sharks dropping the fourth game 25-14. As the ball bounced on the floor, the celebration for the Jaguars started with players and then the student section joined the players on the court. Sounds of jubilation raised toward the ceiling and along with the Jaguars’ players lifting the trophy.
Nature Coast Tech High School volleyball coach Emily Gore walked with her team quietly back to the locker room for a few minutes with her team to compose themselves before boarding the bus.
They walked into the gym together as a team inside Academy of the Holy Names, the pregame was business like but they competed in the words of their coach-like champions.
“I am so happy and proud of these girls. They did a phenomenal job,” Gore said. “If you lose in the Elite Eight to the one seed, it is hard to be disappointed or upset because these girls have done a fantastic job.”
There were tears of disappointment and there were plenty of hugs for the players from the crowd that followed the Sharks to the city of Tampa and to the shore of the bay. According to Gore not too many people gave this group any chance to make the trip.
This school of Sharks proved to them they were all wrong!