Volleyball: More seasoned Indian Rocks Christian holds off Holy Names
INDIAN ROCKS — Last season, Academy of the Holy Names and Indian Rocks Christian were in different situations. The Jaguars were loaded with seniors and advanced to the postseason. The Golden Eagles were young and took their lumps in a 14-12 season.
Those roles have reversed this season.
Indian Rocks Christian is the experienced team while AHN is trying to find some early-season chemistry with a young lineup. That was apparent Tuesday night during IRC’s 25-21, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18 non-district win over the Jaguars.
IRC was able to fight its way back in the first two games, then finished off the Jaguars in the fourth game to improve to 3-1 in the early season. It is IRC’s third straight win prior to Thursday's match at Seffner Christian.
AHN (1-1) suffered its first loss of the season and will try to bounce back on Thursday against Brooks DeBartolo.
“I think our chemistry is a lot better than it was,’’ said senior outside hitter Reese Touma, who had eight kills. “It helps us mentally. We know how to talk to each other. Each player is different and we know how to handle each other. We’ve definitely improved from last year. We were head cases last year.’’
The first game set the tone for the match. There were 12 ties in the game and each team shared the lead. The Jaguars took a 16-13 lead but then gave up three straight points to tie it. From there, no team led by more than a point until the game was tied 20-20.
IRC scored five of the final six points, two on AHN errors, to close out the game.
It took an even bigger comeback for the Eagles to take a 2-0 lead. Down 23-19, IRC scored the final six points for the win. Rachael Difrancesco had a kill and the game-ending ace during the run. She had nine kills in the match.
“We’re much more confident this season," Difrancesco said. “I think that showed late in the games when it was in the 20s."
AHN salvaged the third game by scoring the final five points. Junior outside hitter Brianna Benito was big in that stretch with three kills and an ace. Benito had 12 kills overall.
But in the fourth game, IRC broke out to a 16-9 lead and never game up the lead to close out the match.
The Eagles had 18 service aces, four by Elise Burris.
“This is probably the best we’ve played so far mentally," IRC coach Mark Foster said. “We were engaged in the game and got ourselves out of the rut a couple of times."
AHN was led by Katherine Pickard, who had 18 kills. The Jaguars had 14 service errors.
“We have a lot of learning to do," AHN coach Laura Praetorius said. “It’s all stuff that we can fix and it’s early so I don’t mind them going for it and not putting the brakes on. But as the sets got close late they got a little uncomfortable. Then came the unforced errors because they were nervous.’’