BRADENTON — Six days after falling behind two games to one and 24-19 in the fourth in a postseason match on the road at Steinbrenner, Lakewood faced the exact scenario Tuesday night, this time at Braden River in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
"I really thought we could come back again," Lakewood senior hitter Lindsay Dodge said.
It wasn't to be.
Lakewood closed to 24-22 but lost the next point — and the match — 21-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-22, ending the Spartans' season at 15-10.
"It's the worst feeling in the world," Lakewood sophomore hitter Berkley Whaley said.
As usual, Whaley was spectacular, but her 26 kills weren't enough against a solid Braden River team that improved to 3-0 against Lakewood this season.
"They're very well-balanced," Lakewood coach Sean O'Flannery said.
The Spartans' problem wasn't effort; it was execution in two primary areas — serving and serve-receive.
In the third game, Lakewood had five service errors.
"That really cost us," O'Flannery said.
As did the team's poor serve-receive, which far too often kept the Spartans from getting into their offense — and getting the ball to the 6-foot-1 Whaley as much as they wanted.
Still, Lakewood had a shot.
Behind 24-19 in the fourth, the Spartans got two quick kills from Whaley then watched Braden River mis-hit a shot. But with its opponent clearly getting nervous, Lakewood couldn't capitalize, failing to even get a kill attempt on the next point.
Just like that, it was over.
"I thought we could do this if we pulled together," Whaley said.