It really shouldn’t be surprising to see any outcome in District 2-7A’s ferocious volleyball matches.
But somehow there’s always a favorite and always an underdog.
On Thursday night in the first game of district play, home team and newly inexperienced Chiles was the underdog, while deep and veteran Leon was the favorite.
The Lions dominated the first set 25-12, but the Timberwolves not only battled back but won the next three sets to grab a 3-1 win.
Oh, and command of the district, at least for a night. Leon (5-2, 0-1) plays at Lincoln next Tuesday.
“We don’t have a lot of returning players, but we have something that our past teams haven’t and that’s we don’t rest on skill,” said Chiles senior Lauren Rizza, who had 17 kills, including two straight to secure second- and third-set wins. “We go after everything, we’re playing with energy. We’re a team that plays off each other, and that’s something we haven’t really had in the past.”
Chiles (4-5, 1-0) could have been dead and buried after one set, and for a moment had the “deer in headlights” look, having started two freshman and a sophomore to go with three seniors. Leon rolled out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back.
“I was not expecting that much of a crowd or that much noise,” Timberwolves freshman outside hitter Aly Freeland said. “I was trying to yell, but no one could hear me. I had to stay positive at that point.”
Freeland posted 15 kills and 11 digs and was a crucial person in backline attack as Chiles turned the tables. Leon had been cruising as senior setter Jaynie Mitchell coordinated attack.
“I don’t think we relaxed, but maybe we didn’t expect them to come out so strong, which is kind of dumb because who isn’t going to come out strong after a 25-12 loss,” Mitchell said. “This game was definitely very important to us and we’re going to be back in the gym working twice as hard.”
Chiles was down 13-12 in the second set but rallied. It was down 24-22 to Leon in the third set but clawed back behind Rizza to win four straight points for a 26-24 win.
And in the fourth set the Lions were up 20-17, but the Timberwolves put together a 6-0 run to grab the lead.
“We had a lot of good competition the last couple weeks, more than we ever have right out of the gate,” seventh-year Timberwolves coach Kaitlin DiLuzio said. “We played Maclay, Plant, Sarasota, went to Jacksonville and played Ponte Vedra. We saw some good teams, trying to prepare us for this match.”
Chiles closed out the win when setter Alyssa Rudd (37 assists, 15 digs) stepped up to serve.
Rudd opened the match with an ace and ended the match with an ace.
“I was just trying to put it over the net to be honest, but the ace was the best way to end that game,” Rudd said. “It felt really good. That just finished the game off, cherry on top.”
Chiles faces Maclay next Tuesday, then has a week to prepare before facing Lincoln. The Timberwolves face Leon again on the road on Sept. 30.
“We’ve been losing games, and I’m not sure we thought we could beat them,” Rizza said. “Now beating Leon and them supposedly being No. 1 in the district, we know we can win it. We’re going to keep progressing and keep getting stronger.”
Chiles def. Leon, 3-1 (12-25, 25-19, 26-24, 25-22)
Kills — Lauren Rizza 17, Aly Freeland 15, Alyssa Rudd 4
Digs — Kelsey Mead 19, Madison Lane 12, Rudd 15, Freeland 11,
Assists — Rudd 37
Blocks — Katie Parmalee 4, Mia Cotton 3
Aces — Lane 3, Paige Pumphrey 2, Rudd 2
Leon (5-2, 0-1 District 2-7A), Chiles (4-5, 1-0 District 2-7A)
Leon at Lincoln, Sept. 15; Maclay at Chiles, Sept. 15