Catholic High’s volleyball team had dug a five-point deficit early into the first set Thursday night when a timeout was called.
In his unique way, Crusaders coach Giulio Simonelli reminded players this might be a good time to begin reaching potential.
Message heeded. Performance gained.
The Crusaders flicked a light switch, scored 16 of the next 23 points, battled to win that game, then cruised to a sweep of North Bay Haven at West Florida High to claim another District 1-4A Tournament championship.
“We started really flat,” said Simonelli, after watching Catholic win its 18th district volleyball title in the past 19 years. “I tried to get them up a little bit. They forced me into a timeout. We needed to regroup. But they reacted positive. We were not playing well. We were not fluid. Everything was kinda of a grinding process.
“(North Bay Haven) started with a lot of energy, things we didn’t have. Then in second set we started playing our ball. Our passing got a lot better, our defense got a lot better, our block got a lot better.”
And the team played a lot better.
The Crusaders (23-4) didn’t trail at any point in the final two sets, winning 25-23, 25-16, 25-13. The win sends them into the first round of the region playoffs. Catholic hosts Marianna on Wednesday.
Mirella Gatterdam, one of five seniors, produced a service ace, a block, nine digs, two assists and 11 kills. Fellow senior Kiley Brady had three blocks, three digs, nine kills. Another senior, libero Madison Yarborough was singled out by Simonelli for her performance, which included 15 digs.
“She is solid… solid,” he said, repeating for emphasis. “She anchored the defense. We started passing well. She is always in the middle.”
Sophomore Ellen Floyd had three aces, two blocks, 12 digs, a kill and 31 assists. Another sophomore, Kayla Carrell, was brought up from junior varsity to help with depth and player injury.
“We began controlling the game really well. The point is, we need to play our kind of ball, regardless of who we are facing,” Simonelli said. “We did very well the vast majority of our (season) matches.”
The Crusaders handled North Bay Haven in a pair of three-set sweeps in the regular season.
“We were a little bit too relaxed,” he said. “But I give the credit to North Bay Haven. They showed up ready to play They didn’t just come here to play.. They came here to win and they challenged us, which was good. So the next match we’re not going to be so relaxed.”
Simonelli hopes the next match, he can get some players healed. The Crusaders’ tallest player, 6-foot-3 junior Payton Goff, was playing with an ankle injury. She finished with four blocks, a dig and one assist.
“She sprained her ankle really bad (in previous game). She hung in there well. She is tough. Really tough,” he said.
Now, the playoff road gets tougher.
At West Florida High
Catholic def. North Bay Haven 3-0
CATHOLIC (23-4) STATS: Ellen Floyd 3 aces, 2 blocks, 12 digs, 1 kill, 31 assists. Kiley Brady 1 ace, 3 blocks, 3 digs, 9 kills. Mirella Gatterdam 1 ace, 1 block, 9 digs, 2 assists, 11 kills. Hailey Fredriksson 9 digs, 10 kills. Madison Yarborough 1 ace, 15 digs. Caitlin Doyle 2 kills, Bailey Burns 2 blocks, 12 digs, 1 assist, 3 kills. Brook LaBounty 2 digs, Payton Goff 4 blocks, 1 dig, 1 assist. Kayla Carrell 5 digs.