KISSIMMEE — Overcoming the illness of one of its best hitters, the burden of massive expectations and two of its less dominant performances of the season, East Lake’s volleyball team went about its way and made history Saturday afternoon by becoming the first team in Pinellas County history to repeat as state champion.
“Back to back,” said senior middle hitter Brianna McComeskey. “Once we heard that no one in Pinellas County had ever won back to back, that was our goal.”
The Eagles weren’t perfect at Silver Spurs Arena this weekend. But they were perfunctory.
The only things missing from the Eagles’ 25-16, 27-29, 25-21, 25-16 victory over Miami Wellington in the Class 8A final were briefcases and BlackBerries.
“It was definitely more businesslike this year,” said senior Jackie Wegner. “It was easier for the seniors last year, they did it and they were done. But the juniors on that team, we had to do it again.”
With Brittnay Estes still slowed by an allergic reaction that nearly caused her to miss the state tournament, it was Wegner who stepped up and put on an MVP-type performance.
She followed up a 15-kill performance in the semifinals by banging out 19 more kills against Wellington, and added 18 digs to lead the Eagles, who won last year’s 5A title.
The Eagles, 27-1 this season under first-year coach Mike Estes and 56-3 the past two, powered their way to the title by controlling the later portions of each game except for one.
Leading 17-16 in Game 1, they scored the final eight points as setter Rachel Reed scored on a kill and a block, and Estes served out the game, including an ace to end it.
After stumbling in the second and uncharacteristically failing to close out game points, they used a 7-1 run fueled by a pair of Reed aces to gain control in Game 3, then used a flourish to wrap up the match in the final game.
Nursing a 13-11 lead, Estes, Wegner and Reed each had kills to stretch the advantage to 20-12, and McComeskey’s block and kill set up state title point, which Wellington hit wide.
“We’ve thought about winning this all year,” said Reed, who had 53 assists. “We stuck together, we were never worried. No matter what happened, we always had it in our head that we got this. We got this.”