LAKELAND — Countryside's scrappy brand of volleyball that earned the Cougars a 29-0 record and a spot in the Class 6A state semifinals was on full display at the Lakeland Center against Timber Creek.
The Cougars clawed.
They dove for balls that seemed out of reach. They got a hand on nearly every Timber Creek attempt, whether tipping it at the net or digging it in the back.
Countryside played its game and played it well.
But it still wasn't enough to overcome Timber Creek's size advantage in a 28-26, 25-16, 25-22 loss.
"We knew that they were a team that was going to keep balls in play," Timber Creek coach Allan Rubenstein said. "It's a kind of team that will frustrate you because they'll make digs, they'll make plays, they'll hit shots to wherever we're not on the court. … They're good at what they do. They have amazing ball control and defense and they just hang in rallies.
"They put us to the test."
Countryside let a golden opportunity to grab the first game slip by because of a couple inopportune serving errors. With the score tied at 25, Gia Tomossone's serve went long. At 26-all, Shatia Wallace's serve went in the net. Timber Creek won the opening game a point later on Rachel Stacy's block.
"Tonight was not our best serving night," said Truluck, who led the Cougars with 14 kills and 21 digs.
The frustration of losing that opening game carried over to Game 2, where Timber Creek (30-2) went on a 6-1 run to break open an 11-all tie. The Wolves took the final four points
"We got frustrated early with each other," Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly said. "Usually we're able to pull out of that and start working together as a team. We did it in spurts, but against a good team you can't do that."
Timber Creek appeared to have Game 3 in hand holding a 20-15 lead, but Countryside rallied to tie at 21. The Cougars, however, had no answer for Timber Creek's Jessica Yingling, a University of Tampa signee who slammed home the final three points for the Wolves with three of her game-high 20 kills.
"She's impossible to stop," Truluck said. "You go to block right, she hits left. You block left, she hits right. You block both, she tips. She's good. … I wish we could have come up with something for her tonight."
Countryside finishes its season with a 29-1 record and the school's deepest playoff run since 2000.
"We had a great season," Truluck said. "I'm not going to let one match make me think we didn't."