Evangelical Christian spent most of the season beating opponents with high-powered serves and devastating kills. But when the Sentinels needed it most, their strength became their weakness.
Evangelical committed 17 service errors and couldn’t get the kills when it needed them in a 16-25, 25-19, 25-23, 22-25, 15-11 loss to host Clearwater Central Catholic in the Class 3A region final Saturday afternoon.
It is the second straight year the Sentinels lost in five games to CCC in the region final. The Marauders (25-5) will play Orlando First Academy on Tuesday morning in the state semifinals. Evangelical ends its season at 23-6.
“In the second and third sets we kind of handed it to them,” Evangelical coach Liz Ferguson said. “We had too many missed serves. You can’t win a game if you’re missing serves. We’re usually a very aggressive serving team. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
After the first game, it looked as if it was meant to be.
Tied at 12, the Sentinels went on a 4-0 run thanks to CCC errors and kills by Sydney Ferguson and Emily Laquidara. CCC never really threatened after the run. Evangelical Christian (23-6) scored the final four points, highlighted by two Ferguson kills, to close out the game.
Evangelical managed to jump out to a four-point lead in the second and third games, but service errors and the front line play of CCC’s Katie Moore and Shea Hamilton let the Marauders back into both games.
In the second, Evangelical trailed by as many as six before cutting the CCC lead to 22-19. But two big blocks by Moore and an errant tip ended the game.
CCC came back in the third game, but the Sentinels had a better chance to win at the end. A Ginny Moore kill cut the lead to 24-23, but Katie Moore had a kill that ended the game.
Evangelical fought back in the fourth game. There were eight ties, but at 13-13 the Sentinels scored five of the next six points, highlighted by kills from Ferguson, Schuyler Moore and a block by Caroline Forester.
The Marauders tried to mount a comeback, but came up short when Forester blocked a kill attempt to end the game.
In the decisive fifth, CCC scored the first five points and led 8-3. Evangelical chipped away to 11-9, but could not stop kills by Hamilton and Sara Brown. The match ended on a serve into the net by Taylor Ferguson.
“We knew this would be a monster hurdle,” CCC coach Stephen Shepherd said. “They’ve got six footers and they jump well and they are a pretty disciplined team. We just had to keep plugging away.”
Sydney Ferguson led the Sentinels with 16 kills. Savannah Tessier added 10.
Liz Ferguson said her team picked the wrong day to serve poorly, but overall she said it was a good season.
“Our girls fought hard,” Ferguson said. “Overall, they have nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve played a very tough schedule this year.”