8A-9: Bloomingdale shakes off early deficit
PLANT CITY — After the first set Thursday night it sure looked like East Bay was well on its way to winning the first-ever volleyball district title in school history.
Bloomingdale had other ideas.
Once the Bulls gathered themselves during the break between the first and second sets — “And got that adrenaline pumping in a good way,” Bulls senior Emily Doyle said — things turned around rather dramatically.
By the time the dust settled two hours later, the Bulls had pulled out a hard-fought, nail-biting Class 8A, District 9 victory over the Indians, 14-25, 25-22, 25-20, 26-24.
“I think we got off to a shaky start because we wanted it so bad and it was the district final and the crowd was so big and loud and intense (on their feet screaming the entire night),” Doyle said. “But after we got our momentum back in the last three sets I thought we played awesome.”
Heroes? There were plenty to go around, including Doyle, who collected one big kill after another in many of the crucial moments, which she said, “Is something I want. I feel like I can put it away for my team when they need it.”
Doyle was also quick to praise her teammates, as was her coach, Claudia Puig, who goes deep into her bench at all times, often asking her players to do multiple things.
On Thursday, for instance, three girls — Jada Flowers, Natalie Mack and Camryn Huet — served as setters, and three others along with Huet — Kelsie Martin, Nicole Calescibetta and Barbara Clifford — played as defensive specialists/liberos.
Then at the net, there was Doyle and Gabrielle Culhane slamming down spikes and blocking alongside Emilee Runnels and Andrea Brito.
“All those girls make it great to change things up and adjust to other teams,” said Puig, who switched up her attacking directions after the first set on Thursday. “We had to adjust to (East Bay’s block).”
The victory not only captured the district title for the Bulls (11-9) but it avenged a regular-season loss to East Bay, which is still enjoying its first winning season in school history at 12-4.
For East Bay senior middle Cheyenne Westerman, Thursday’s loss was extremely frustrating, but not devastating because East Bay can possibly meet Bloomingdale again if both win their region quarterfinal matches Tuesday.
“We want to play them again (in the second round of regionals),” Western said. “We can play much better than we did tonight.”