Tied at 26 during the opening game between the Coral Shores and Key West High volleyball teams on Thursday, Oct. 7, the Lady ’Canes turned to celebrate the go-head point on a hit by senior Kate Johnson. Only problem, the Lady Conchs were there to scoop the shot and, much to the surprise of the Hurricanes, land the ball back on the other side of the net at the feet of Coral Shores for the point and serve on Bill Butler Court in Key West.
The Lady Conchs would score the next point for the 1-0 match lead, but as Key West coach Sarah Eckert pointed out, momentum was still on the side of Coral Shores. So much so, the Lady ’Canes opened the second game on a 7-1 run.
So when Key West rallied in set two to bring the game even at 16-all, momentum had shifted in the favor of the home squad.
“Those were definitely two huge turning points,” said Eckert, whose team would go on to win the match 3-0 (28-26, 25-19, 25-20). “That first game, for our girls to pull that off was huge. There are always momentum shifts in volleyball and you have to know the lows will pass and if you can battle your way out of it the highs will come back and you can ride that momentum once you are on that wave.”
Key West rode the service of Elise Warwick during the comeback rally in the second game, as the sophomore took 12 consecutive serves, during which the Lady Conchs took the lead they never relinquished en route to the victory and 20 advantage.
“I told them that, ‘If they wanted to win the game, they had to fight right now and go after it,’” said Eckert.
In the third, Key West was in front the entire way and despite Coral Shores cutting the lead to a point, the Lady ’Canes were never able to gain control again in the match.
Linsdey Clausen put away 19 kills in the victory for Key West, as well as 15 digs, while Warwick contributed nine kills, five aces and 12 digs. Bridgette Sweeny had three kills and two blocks, while Vicki Pavlik set up 20 assists.
“The youth still shows through sometimes, so we need to maintain our confidence and work on getting everyone on that same page every day,” said Eckert. “It was fantastic to see them with their game-face on, ready to compete. That can be tough because certain days not everyone shows up, but they did in this one, they were willing to fight for it. When you play tough teams, you win by playing with heart.”
The Conchs coach added that “Everything right now in this season is working toward improving our district rankings,” and Key West, currently ranked fifth, only has two opportunities remaining to do that, including a rematch against Coral Shores in Tavernier on Tuesday. A win in both matches would go a long way to bump Key West to the No. 4 seed, which is where Eckert wants to be, as they would be hosting the first round of the playoffs from that position.
“That would be huge for us, to give us a little bit of an advantage to start the tournament,” said Eckert. “We started the season with a very young team and our schedule has been chalked full of really tough competition. I think it has been great for them because they have learn to work for everything and that’s what they have been doing all year. We just want to change our style of play from a more passive mindset to a more aggressive one because we are trying to take ownership of the game.”