When Evangelical Christian invited St. Thomas Aquinas to visit from Fort Lauderdale, it knew it was going to get a tough volleyball match. But after a thrilling five-set loss Saturday afternoon, the Sentinels walked away knowing that they at least gave the Raiders all they could handle.
“The girls have been working hard to play some higher-level teams like this, and I was really proud of them,” ECS coach Liz Ferguson said.
The match saw 18 lead changes. But in the decisive fifth set, the powerful attackers of Class 7A Aquinas — ranked 36th in the nation by prepvolleyball.com — blasted several strong attacks into the floor to settle the matter.
“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” Ferguson said of her team.
Shelby Joslin had a double-double with 16 points and 15 digs. Sydney Ferguson dropped another 16 kills and a block. Ginny Moore added 13 kills and 17 service points. Her twin sister Schuyler assisted in 45 kills.
The Sentinels (13-2) started the match with a 7-2 lead, including aces by Moore and Kasey Reynolds. St. Thomas (12-3), having six players over 6-feet tall on the roster, responded with superior blocking and a 5-0 run. At 6-3, middle Brooke Lyons finished off the close set with a block for the 25-23 win.
Moore sparked a big lead early in the second set with a kill that rolled off the top of the net. She then served through an 8-0 run that put ECS up 12-4. St. Thomas crept back into the fray with a 6-0 run of their own that included three aces by Mackenzie Zielinski and made it a 3-point set. Sydney Ferguson stabilized the situation with two kills and a block, and ECS regained the initiative. They won the set, 25-20, when Lyons hit an attack out of bounds.
ECS appeared to implode in the third set, dropping the first seven points and trailing by as much as 12. Aquinas won that forgettable set 25-16.
“They kind of gave up on their serve-receive,” Liz Ferguson said.
The Sentinels fell 10-4 in the fourth set, but after Liz Ferguson called a timeout, things turned around. A 5-0 run that included a Schuyler Moore kill of a free ball took the set back to two points.
This time, it was Joslin’s turn to stand out. She tied the set twice, once with an attack that was returned out of bounds and again with a powerful hit to the floor. She surprised the STA defense with a set over the net to make it 19-17.
“They saw how close they were, and they got fired up for those last couple of sets,” Liz Ferguson said.
Facing set point, the Raiders scored three. But Sydney Ferguson put down a sharp kill and ECS won the set with a lift call on St. Thomas.
The Sentinels never led in the fifth set, but they never trailed by more than three points, either. But Lyons and her sister Nikki took over the set with their superb power, combining for eight kills.