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TRINITY — The motto Hernando has followed this season is on the back of their team T-shirts: “never underestimate.”
Leopards coach Patty Martin told stories to her girls about the last time Hernando went past the first round of the playoffs back in the early 1990s. Most of her players were not even 2 at the time.
Behind the inspiration of their coach and consistent play from senior Brittany Hill, Hernando was able to spark a comeback, after being down a game going into the fourth set, to defeat Mitchell 25-20, 23-25, 16-25, 25-16, 15-9 in a Class 4A region quarterfinal.
“We have been talking about bringing the spirit back,” Martin said. “Our shirts read ‘never underestimate’ and I think it’s worked to our benefit because everybody has underestimated us.”
Hernando (16-10) surprised Mitchell from the start, as Hill (13 kills, five blocks) set the tone with five kills and a block early on. Mitchell countered in the next two games, receiving inspired play from junior Devon Felts (12 kills). In the third set, Felts closed the game with a kill to give Mitchell the 2-1 advantage.
In the fourth set, the Leopards dominated and back-to-back Courtney Crawford (seven kills) kills gave them a 17-13 advantage that sent the Mustangs spiraling going into the fifth game.
In the last set, Hernando was up 9-8, then unforced errors doomed Mitchell, giving the Leopards the decisive 15-9 clincher.
“I’m speechless,” Hill said. “This is a big win for the whole school and I’m just so happy we’re moving on.”