4A-4: One goal down for Calvary Christian
CLEARWATER – Sometimes, observation and opportunity can combine to create something special.
In the summer of 2013, Caslin Layer entered the Calvary Christian gym as a rising freshman setter looking to make the team. After workouts began, coach Caleb Sibert came up with a different plan.
“We had her doing some setting work and I noticed she was jumping well,” Sibert recalled. “We had a senior setter and needed an outside hitter, so we just started working with her. The rest is history.”
Fast forward to Thursday night and the contributions of Layer – a four-year starter – in a 3-0 win over Northside Christian (18-5) to repeat as Class 4A, District 4 champions were impressive right from the start.
Serving to open the match, Layer pounded out four aces as the Warriors sprinted to a 5-0 lead that grew as big as nine points. Moving to the front line, she added three kills to lock up the 25-19 win.
“Everybody told us that we had to get off to a great start and that's how we were going to win,” said Layer, who finished with 21 kills and six aces. “If we played efficient volleyball, took care of business ... I think we did a good job of it.”
Brionna Slaughter (eight kills) and setter Caroline Burgess combined for another swift start in Game 2, charging to a 9-3 advantage before the Mustangs responded.
Freshman setter Ashley Russell (15 assists) distributed the ball well to senior Caitlyn Russell, freshman Brianna White and sophomore Morgan Madasz to put Northside on top, 20-19.
But some unforced Mustang errors combined with a dagger-like kill from Slaughter pushed the Warriors (21-5) to a key 25-22 victory.
“(Northside) started playing smarter, and it was a learning time for us to find the balance between being aggressive and being smart with our shot selection,” said Sibert.
Both teams were at the top of their games in the third set, a rager that featured 11 ties and six lead changes.
As soon as Layer and sophomore Sophia Lee would help cobble together a five-point run for a 9-5 Calvary lead, an Ashley Russell ace would spark a 5-0 answer by Northside to retie the score.
But two final kills from Layer wrapped around a Burgess ace to get the Warriors within a point of the title, and a block from Berg and junior Gracyn Holloway locked up the 25-20 triumph.
“(A district championship) was definitely our No. 1 goal going into the season, and our next is to go past the second round of regionals because we've never done that,” Layer said.
The victory had additional meaning for Sibert.
“We knew going in that if we won (Thursday), we'd be home for our next two matches. We talked about it before the match to add a little more motivation as well. It doesn't get any easier from here.”
Especially with a potential region matchup with six-time state finalist and five-time champion First Academy of Orlando looming on the horizon.