TAMPA — Perhaps disillusioned with the walloping Armwood was inflicting on their football team on the west end of campus, a couple dozen boisterous Gaither students crashed the Cowboys' gym about midway through Thursday night's district volleyball final.
Many were slathered in blue and white paint. Collectively, they provided some additional spirit. Seniors Laura Ackart and Jenna Clark provided the spikes.
The senior tandem combined for 35 kills as the Cowboys (18-3) rallied from a 2-1 deficit for a five-set triumph (25-18, 25-27, 17-25, 25-18, 15-10) against north Tampa rival Sickles. Gaither, winner of its first district crown since 2003, hosts a region quarterfinal Tuesday; Sickles (20-5) must travel.
"It started out really good," said Cowboys coach Tom Boylan, perhaps the only spectator able to remain seated nearly the whole match. "It got a little rough in the middle but we were able to suck it up and come back and finish strong."
Clark, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter, had at least three consecutive kills down the stretch of Game 4; while Ackart, a 5-8 outside hitter, nearly replicated the feat in the final game. Senior Emily Hussin added 40 assists while senior Sarah Wood totaled 23 digs.
"(Clark and Ackart) started out a little bit slow tonight but they really picked it up at the end right there," Boylan said. "That was critical the way they played, especially that last game."
Senior Lauren Ramsey led Sickles with 20 kills, four aces and 16 digs, but not even her effort could negate the Gryphons' uncharacteristic series of hitting errors.
"We just didn't step up to the plate and do our job to the best of our ability," Gryphons coach Rob Brashear said.