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CLEARWATER — Wednesday will be such a rare day at Calvary Christian that it had to come up with some sort of special name. In honor of the Warriors’ first appearance at the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament — the school’s first state tournament in any FHSAA-sanctioned sport — today is Sport Activity Day.
The floor of the school’s main entrance is covered with a banner that reads: Final Four, We Want More, and lists the names of all 14 varsity players. Basketball-shaped balloons float near the gym entrance. Streamers line the hallway and signs of encouragement are taped to the walls.
At 9 a.m., there will be a pep rally in the gym before the team boards its charter bus. An hour later, at least two more bus loads of students and faculty will make the trek down I-4. Students get an excused absence.
“It’s new, it’s exciting,” third-year coach Brooke Sibert said. “We’re making new traditions here.”
Before this season, the Warriors had no tradition. The team never had a winning season or had won a district tournament.
Bolstered by the addition of freshman guards Carley and Savannah Plentovich and 6-foot-2 senior center Rachel Mostert, Calvary Christian dominated district opponents. Their only losses were to Class 5A Boca Ciega, Seffner Christian (also in the Class 3A semifinals) and Class 7A Harmony.
The Warriors (25-3) have won 11 straight, including a decisive 47-39 win at Naples Community School in the region final. In five postseason games, Calvary Christian has won by an average of 29.4 points.
“We all kind of had high expectations,” Mostert said. “We knew we had something special. We just had to work hard enough to make it happen.”
While Mostert doesn’t have eye-popping statistics (6.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg), she has been a welcome addition. She spent her freshman and sophomore seasons at Lakeside Christian then transferred to Calvary Christian as a junior but focused only on volleyball.
As a senior, Mostert excelled at volleyball and earned a scholarship to Florida Southern but didn’t want to stop playing sports.
She attends St. Petersburg Collegiate School and is already taking college classes. Her link to Calvary Christian is athletics, so she begged her dad, Alan, to play basketball.
“After seeing who was on the team and how good they were, I remember telling my dad that I wanted to play basketball,” Mostert said. “The girls were telling me that if they had a post (player) we could go really far.
“My dad wouldn’t let me play. He thought I would get hurt. There was a lot of begging and nagging before he finally let me play.”
With Mostert in the middle, the Plentovich twins, Caroline Andreassen and senior Kasey Howard are free to shoot from the outside. The result has been 56 points per game.
“They play as a team this year,” Sibert said. “We need all 14 players, not just five, all 14. They all have roles that are important."
Senior Caitlyn Dollar is one of those role players. She has been on the team since her freshman year.
“It’s a huge difference,” Dollar said. “We had more losses than wins. At the beginning of the season we have a team journal we have to fill out. Every year one of those goals is to go to states. Then this year we did it.”
Team unity is another factor. At a Tuesday practice less than 24 hours before game time, the Warriors were as loose as could be. They giggled at the recently hung posters and joked with each other before entering the gym.
“I just walked in (to the school) and I’m blown away by it,” Mostert said. “I told my dad that this sort of thing happens in movies or to other people. It doesn’t happen to me. It’s overwhelming.”
About Daytona Beach Father Lopez
Nickname: Green Wave
Road to the final four: Def. Gainesville Oak Hall 65-22; def. Gainesville P.K. Younge 62-60; def. Jacksonville University Christian 69-56
Key players: Ashley Folsom (29 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks in region final), Simone Brown (averages 15.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, scored 17 in region final); Shannon Cranshaw (21.3 ppg)
Noteworthy: The Green Wave won a state championship in 2005 and has been in the region semifinals every year since 2003. It has not played in the state tournament since its state championship.