HOLIDAY — As the students swarmed him on his homecourt and his players collapsed to the floor in shock and frustration, Anclote volleyball coach Chris Vergnaud put his hands on his knees and stared in disbelief at his team’s improbable five-set victory over Wiregrass Ranch.
The Sharks rallied from two games down to knock off one of the North Suncoast’s top teams, earning a 17-25, 20-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-12 win over the Bulls on Tuesday night.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Vergnaud said. “We just kicked it in and believed.”
They didn’t have reason to believe early, thanks to Bulls senior Grace Olsen. The junior outside hitter showed why she’s one of Pasco County’s top seniors recording six kills and six aces in the first two games. She followed one ace with a kill, and the Bulls rattled off 11 straight points with her serve in the second.
Olsen got plenty of help from her teammates. Kaitlin Diehl added three early kills, and back-to-back spikes from Jackie Spencer helped Wiregrass Ranch (2-1) close out the first game.
But Anclote finally recovered in the third. Senior Alexis Garcia — an all-conference setter last season — set the tone with an early ace, and Aaliyah Anderson (eight kills) and Mia Lockhart (12 kills) took over.
“For the first time tonight, we showed what a mentally tough team we can be,” Vergnaud said.
And the Sharks showed how they can build on last year’s Cinderella run to the district final. After consecutive spikes from Lockhart helped lock up the third game, Anclote battled Wiregrass tight in the fourth.
The Sharks trailed 17-15 before Anderson answered with a kill, two blocks and another kill, and her final serve trickled over the net for an ace to send the match to a fifth game.
Wiregrass Ranch took an early 5-1 lead behind two more of Olsen’s 13 kills and an ace from Kayleigh Putnam before Anclote rallied one more time. The Sharks feasted on three late errors, and Garcia’s last two serves dropped in for aces to end the match.
“They just hung in there,” Vergnaud said.
And they escaped with a key early-season victory.