Tampa Catholic rallies past rival Holy Names
TAMPA — After winning the first two sets against rival Academy of the Holy Names,Tampa Catholic knew it could have put the match away a long time ago. Instead, the Jaguars rallied, coming back from down six in what could have been a decisive fourth set to force a fifth.
Crusaders coach Morgan Toney knew the atmosphere for the final set would be even more tense than it had been all night. Still, she insisted her players block it out.
"What I told them before the last one was, 'The crowd, the TV, Academy. It's all noise,'" Toney said. "'What it really comes down to is volleyball. Do you love to be here? Do you want to win?'"
And though it took longer than hoped, the Crusaders proved they did, winning the final set on back-to-back aces to take the match 3-2 (29-27, 25-20, 17-25, 21-25, 16-14).
The Crusaders (8-5) had to fight in the first, scoring three straight points to close it out and take the early lead. The second set was a little easier, and Tampa Catholic led by as much as eight down the stretch.
The third was when the Crusaders were hoping to put the match away. The Jaguars (10-6) had a different plan, and announced it right away, scoring seven straight points.
Tampa Catholic outside hitter Abigail Zimroth said she could feel the momentum slipping from their fingers.
"We kind of started to stay complacent," she said, "and we just needed to pick it up, because they were on a roll for a second."
Led by outside hitter Camille Opp, AHN rode that momentum through the third and fourth, during which Opp had 10 kills.
Opp's energy carried over into the fifth. Fortunately for the Crusaders, Zimroth's did, too.
Holy Names led by as many as four in the final set, then Zimroth went off, notching three kills to help get the Crusaders back in it. Then Tampa Catholic, ready to finally put it away, sealed the deal on two straight aces.
Toney said she was impressed by her team's ability to refocus to win the big match. More importantly, she added, the Crusaders learned not just how to win, but how to really earn it.
"We had to work really hard for it," she said. "You can't stop playing until the final point, because this was a very tough matchup, but this is the one we've been waiting for all season."