CLEARWATER — Countryside started its region quarterfinal by missing routine kills and squandering early opportunities.
The Cougars, who are undefeated, trailed Durant 10-2 and seemed on the verge of losing a game for just the third time this season.
But Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly never called timeout. Instead, she kept clapping, remained upbeat and pushed her team to believe in comebacks.
The positive reinforcement worked. The Cougars won that first game. Then they won the next. And as the final point was scored in the deciding game, they finally celebrated the faith they had in themselves to deliver a 25-21, 25-18, 26-24 victory.
Countryside (27-0) plays at Lakeland in next week's region semifinals.
"I was trying my best to be patient and not call timeout," Bayly said. "I believe a lot in this team, and I knew they would eventually settle down."
Countryside pulled out the match with a mix of athletic skill, unshakable defense and endurance.
Madison Truluck had 18 kills, four aces and two blocks, and Sara Wright had 41 assists for the Cougars.
Durant (12-13) was led by Chelsea Morris (10 kills), Kelsey Horton (eight kills) and Erika Wardzinski (30 assists).
"It was a tough one to lose," Durant coach Jeff Davis said. "I thought it was one of the better matches we've played this season. But Countryside is a great team with solid ball control and they don't make a lot of errors."
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]