Fivay’s first trip to the Class 5A region finals ended in a 25-14, 26-24, 25-10 loss at Bartram Trail on Saturday.
The final point of the match, an ace from Bartram’s Sarah Ragland that split a pair of Falcons defenders, sent Ragland into an embrace with her team, victorious for the first time this far into the postseason. Among her teammates was libero Bailie Burkins, who finished with a game-high 15 digs.
“No words can describe what this feels like,” Burkins said. “We knew from the beginning of the year that we had a chance to be good, we have a lot of really good players on this team. There wasn’t any doubt we could do this.”
Despite what a sweep and two lopsided sets may indicate, the Falcons (24-7) gave the Bears (22-5) everything they could handle.
The middle frame pushed Bartram to its limit. Nineteen times the score was tied, leading to nine lead changes, and neither team led by more than two points at any point in the set.
“(Fivay) picked up its intensity that set,” Bartram coach Audrey Holtz said. “But we did a great job in not reacting to what they were doing and keeping with our game plan and focusing on ourselves.”
Lexi Henriott, who led the Bears with 16 kills along with nine digs, found success attacking the edges of Fivay’s floor in that frame.
Service errors plagued Bartram early on, but neither team was able to mount anything close to a rally. It wasn’t until Henriott made a pair of digs late in the set that momentum made its way to Bartram’s side. Fivay led for the majority of the second set and had a chance to put Bartram away when the Falcons took a 24-23 lead. But the Bears answered with three straight points, capped by a Fivay shot that went long.
“Every time the ball made its way to Lexi, she made a positive play with it,” Holtz said. “Burkins had some key plays for us through the match, but they all had to come through for us today one way or the other.”
The Bears, having overcome close matches against rival Creekside in the district championship and region semifinal, have grown accustomed to finding themselves scratching for every point, many decided after double-digit volley totals punctuated with a Ragland spike. All the better to prepare Bartram Trail for the challenges that remain.
“At this point every team we face is going to be a complete team,” Holtz said. “We’re so excited to have a chance to represent our school for the very first time in the final four.”
The Bears face Jensen Beach on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Silver Spurs Arena.