JACKSONVILLE ó As Carrollwood Day trailed by three points in the third set of Thursdayís Class 4A state championship, junior outside hitter Ally-Reese Williams pounded a kill to cut the lead. More importantly, she was the next server in the rotation.
"I knew when we came out of the huddle that she was going to serve a bunch of aces," senior outside hitter Gabriela Quarles said. "She slapped my back so hard, I knew she was ready to go."
The Patriots scored seven straight points and the match ended fittingly on an ace by Williams. Carrollwood Day defeated Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 at the University of North Florida to earn the schoolís first state championship in any sport.
The Patriots (26-2) did not drop a set in four matches after the district tournament.
"One of our assistant coaches told me where to serve the ball but I didnít agree with it," Williams said of her match-clinching ace. "I just did what I thought was right. When I saw the ball go down I was just thinking, ĎThis is so unreal.í "
Judging by the first set it looked as if Carrollwood Day would be in for a long match. The teams traded points most of the way. There were nine ties by the time the score got to 19-all. Quarles was having trouble with the Bucsí blocking scheme.
But Williams heated up and got two straight kills to make the score 21-19. Benjamin closed it to 23-22, but a Quarles kill and a Bucs error ended the set.
Carrollwood Day fell behind 6-1 to start the second set but slowly cut into the lead before tying it at 9-all. Quarles started getting more kills after setter Kendel Saigol started setting her higher. Up 19-16, the Patriots scored four straight points, including a kill by Ava Swain and an ace by Saigol. The set ended with a kill by Swain.
The teams traded leads in the third set. The Bucs (16-4) led by three points three different times, including 19-16 late. They swapped points until Williams got to the service line.
"There was no doubt in our minds that we were taking this win," Saigol said. "We wanted it so badly. You could just feel the energy and the passion we had. I didnít have a moment of doubt."
Quarles led the Patriots with 17 kills. Williams added nine kills and had four aces.
Saigol, along with Quarles and Krissy Lloyd, was a member of Carrollwood Dayís first state final team as a freshman. That was a 3-0 loss to Clearwater Central Catholic. She has been going to the school since preschool, so finishing with a state title was her dream ending.
"Iíve been at CDS for 16 years now," said Saigol, tearing up. "This is my last volleyball game ever. Itís just an awesome way to finish."
The players do plan to attend school Friday, although they admit there might not be much learning going on. And the state medals they earned arenít leaving their necks any time soon.
"They are going to my grave," said Quarles, who has also been at CDS since preschool. "Iím wearing it tonight, Iím sleeping with it on, Iím wearing it to school tomorrow. This is my new necklace."