Verot volleyball heads to state semis

Verot volleyball heads to state semis


Verot volleyball heads to state semis


Senior libero Kelsey Sullivan and the Bishop Verot volleyball team face Westminster Christian in a Class 4A semifinal on Saturday in Miami.

Senior libero Kelsey Sullivan and the Bishop Verot volleyball team face Westminster Christian in a Class 4A semifinal on Saturday in Miami.

It wasn’t until the night before a regional quarterfinal game against Tampa Academy of the Holy Names on Oct. 25 that the Bishop Verot volleyball team was able to practice with a 15-player full squad.

Junior Jessica Gedra went down with an injury before the season opener against Fort Myers and senior Alyssa Collins suffered an ankle injury during the third week of September. Smaller injuries and illnesses here and there also occurred.

But, in a way, the injuries served as blessings for a team chasing the second state championship in program history. West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy coach Katie George called Verot “the best team in the state” following the Vikings’ win over the ThunderWolves in a regional final, based on their talent and experience, which wouldn’t have come without the string of injuries.

Verot (26-4) will have another opportunity to prove George right when it faces Westminster Christian (27-4) in a Class 4A semifinal at 2 p.m. Saturday in Miami. A trip to Ocala Thursday for the chance to play for a state crown against either Jacksonville Bolles or Orlando Lake Highland Prep is on the line.

“We definitely have the potential to be the best team in the state,” senior libero Kelsey Sullivan said. “It’s just a matter of us being on our game.”

The Vikings have been at the top of their game during a 12-match winning streak, which included a district championship as well as playoff wins over Holy Names, state powerhouse Tampa Berkeley Prep and Oxbridge. It’s been an extended sendoff for eight seniors.

“What’s bringing it together is that one last ride,” Verot coach Jeremy Ridgeo said. “I think they’re enjoying it, the fact that it’s gone as long as it has. Now we’re two steps away. After the regular season we said we wanted to play seven more games, which were all the one-and-done games.”

However, it didn’t seem to be headed in that direction when the injury bug hit the team. Losing Collins, a Florida State commit, was a huge blow to hopes of making a deep playoff run.

The next girl up mentality developed by the Vikings has been the key to their success. It helped Verot has as much depth as any team in Lee and Collier counties.

Thirteen of the players participate on club teams and all 15 played club at least until their junior season. Ridgeo estimates each girl gets 10,000 extra touches and they become more versatile players, capable of playing numerous positions, through playing club.

The best example may be Sullivan, a defensive specialist who has filled in for Collins at libero. The senior had 34 digs combined against Berkeley and Oxbridge.

“It’s always nerve racking going in trying to replace somebody else, but I think I was ready for it,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been practicing hard. I didn’t expect it, so it was kind of a surprise. I was excited for the opportunity.”

While it took some time to get adjusted to the taxing position, Ridgeo eventually saw a change in Sullivan’s play.

“It started off where she was playing like a backup libero,” Ridgeo said. “And then all of the sudden she just got over it. A lot of that happened at the Chaminade-Madonna tournament. She just got enough reps and started to collect herself and started to build up the stamina. It’s a lot harder to play libero than (defensive specialist). You’re passing serve for six rotations and passing serve is a critical part of the volleyball match. That’s a lot of stress, and she does it well.”

Despite Collins’ return, Ridgeo has stuck with Sullivan at libero. On a team that gets so much of a boost offensively from outside hitter Mindie Mabry, Sullivan headlines a relentless defense that makes the Vikings tough to beat.

“With volleyball, the game can be turned around so quickly,” Sullivan said. “As our coach tells us the highs are never too high and the lows are never too low. That’s been proven in some of our games. We’ve been down and come back or we’ve been up and the other teams has come back. I think that every point matters.”

While the Vikings experienced bits of adversity in the postseason such as when they trailed Berkeley late in the first two sets before coming back to win them or losing the third set to Oxbridge, they’re yet to trail by a set.

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Facing a team ranked eighth among all classifications in the state by MaxPreps, the Vikings’ time to fall behind may come.

“We’re just going to have to dig deep and find it within ourselves,” senior Alliy Gerlach said. “We’ve gotten this far so one set isn’t that big of a deal. At this point, we’re so together as a team. Why let one set loss ruin being state champions?”

Ridgeo has seen enough from his team that if faced with that scenario he won’t be worried.

“These seniors, they put their souls into it and everything falls into place,” Ridgeo said. “I think they’re working hard to make sure they get to play in all seven of those matches.”


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