ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood coach Sean O’Flannery knew his team would have an uphill battle Wednesday. With Berkley Whaley sidelined with an injury, O’Flannery had to count on Leigh Buttner, Sarah Donnelly and the rest of the young Spartans in their district semifinal against Palmetto. But the Tigers pulled off a 25-17, 25-16, 20-25, 25-23 victory.
“You have to play with the players you have on the court,” O’Flannery said. “We have six on the court, not one.”
The Tigers took the lead early in the first two games behind the strong hitting of Jannah McKinnis and errors by the Spartans. Lakewood fought back but the Tigers’ leads were insurmountable.
"Playing from behind is difficult for any team,” O’Flannery said. “We made too many mistakes and kept beating ourselves.”
The Spartans led 8-4 in the third game and won behind the serving of Kim McEntergart. The Tigers nearly ran away with the fourth game before the Spartans fought back to 21-20. Lakewood wasn’t able to get over the hump.
“We showed character in coming back,” O’Flannery said. “Our goal has to be to play with the lead.”