BRANDON — There have been two keys to Brandon's success this fall: passing and defense. In the words of Eagles coach Amy Watson, her team "did not do either one of those" well Saturday.
Because of it, Brandon's terrific season is over.
After a torrid start, the Eagles lost to Winter Park Lake Howell in the Class 5A region final 25-21, 25-8, 25-20. The Silver Hawks (24-5), who are headed to their fourth straight state semifinal, also beat Brandon (25-2) in the same round last year. That match went three games as well.
"We're not very happy," Brandon outside hitter Lindsey Watson said. "We really wanted to go to Lakeland (for the final four)."
Early on, it looked as if Brandon had a chance. The Eagles, whose only prior defeat this season was to nationally ranked Plant, hit on all cylinders. Brandon's passing was solid and the finishing prowess of Audra Geniesse (nine kills) at the net helped the Eagles lead by as many as five points (13-8).
But toward the end of that game, Brandon's offense went flat. Lake Howell capitalized, and the momentum switched hands fast. Led by hitters Correy Johnson (12 kills) and Lauren Adkins (11 kills), the Silver Hawks quickly turned the match in their favor and never relented. During one stretch, Lake Howell scored 45 of 59 points.
"In the second and third games, we kind of fell apart," Lindsey Watson said.
Down 11-3 in the third, Brandon mounted a bit of a rally. The Eagles closed to 20-18, but a few minutes later, the match — and the season — was over.