TRINITY — Tyra Long is apt to take over a match at any time, and the Land O’Lakes senior was doing it Wednesday. But Mitchell regrouped, smartly geared its game plan to avoid Long at every chance and earned a tough 25-21, 25-22, 26-24 victory.
The Mustangs (9-4) have won their past five. Mitchell sophomore Bailey Sassatelli was up to the challenge presented by Long, blocking her three times in an 8-0 run to end the second game.
Land O’Lakes led by at least six in each of the first two games before faltering. Then in the third the Gators rallied from 13-4, saving one match point before losing.
“Normally when we get a lead, we keep it,” said Gators coach Dan Cunningham. “We had a tough match last night too against Wiregrass Ranch (also a 3-0 loss). Some of our girls were tiring, but credit Mitchell for coming at us hard.”
Long finished with a match-high 16 kills, and it was her emphatic back-to-back blocks that had the Gators up 18-14 in the second game. Mitchell called timeout, and on the next two plays Daniele Green was set to the opposite side of Long and recorded two kills.
Then Sassatelli came up with the first of her momentum-changing blocks of Long.
“I was just following her hitting hand. I was using my peripheral vision to keep an eye on her,” Sassatelli said. “When she’s up at the net you have to try to work your way around her.”
Nicole Kraning had a well-timed drop shot then set up Long for a kill as the Gators went back up 22-17 in the second game, but Green served out the final seven points, all of which were Sassatelli blocks or serves that didn’t come back.
Mitchell’s Emily Kerns was omnipresent on defense with a match-high 22 digs. Kraning had seven assists in the third game, 15 overall for the Gators.
Green had nine kills, with perhaps the biggest coming right after being blocked on a brilliant effort by Elyse Garcia, to make it 19-17 in the third game. Shayna Filippelli came up with three kills in a six-point span in the game, which equaled her total previous to that.
The final two points came on Gator errors.