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WESLEY CHAPEL — Up two games to one and hanging onto a slim margin in the fourth game, Zephyrhills needed a big serve to close out Wiregrass Ranch on the Bulls’ home floor.
Zephyrhills coach Dan Muir looked down his bench and spotted his daughter Danielle Muir, the Bulldogs’ highest percentage server.
Only problem: Muir turned her ankle during warmups and spent much of the evening with her right leg propped on a chair and wrapped in ice.
Muir, the coach, took a calculated risk, sending his injured player into the match.
She limped onto the court, took her position behind the endline and served an ace into a soft spot in the Bulls’ formation to close out Wiregrass Ranch 25-19, 24-26, 25-11, 25-22.
“It was a huge risk, and she made me look like a stinking genius,” Muir said.
The gamble came out of necessity. In each game, the Bulldogs (7-2) built big leads only to let the Bulls (6-7) rally.
In Game 1, Zephyrhills held a 24-13 advantage but lost the next six points before taking the opening game on a Wiregrass error.
The Bulldogs had a 19-14 lead in Game 2 before the Bulls responded, winning 11 of 17 points to tie the match.
“We have that problem sometimes. We start relaxing too much,” said Bulldogs middle hitter Kaylee Gaskin, who had a team-high 19 kills. “But we’re working on it."
Zephyrhills made sure the Bulls couldn’t come back in Game 3 after storming out to a 17-3 lead.
Zephyrhills went up 7-0 in the final game, but Wiregrass Ranch regrouped to tie at 10. The teams went back and forth until, at 21-all, the Bulldogs took advantage of a Bulls service error and a pair of kills from Kaitlyn Blount to build a slim margin.
“We got into some adversity, and we stepped up and played well,” Dan Muir said.
Chelsea Violenes had a team-high nine kills and eight blocks for Wiregrass Ranch, which also got solid contributions from Tori Quaglia (eight kills, five blocks) and Ashton Stocker (eight kills).