CLEARWATER — Down by five in Game 3 of Saturday's Class 6A region volleyball final against Orlando Dr. Phillips, Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly reminded her players during a timeout that they had been in a similar situation a match ago, albeit in a do-or-die Game 5.
But this time the Cougars didn't want to let the visiting Panthers have any hope.
After the timeout, Countryside outside hitter Davionna DiSalvatore put away a ferocious kill to give the Cougars all the momentum they needed to finish off the Panthers with an 8-1 run in a 25-17, 25-21, 25-23 victory.
"It pumps us up when we get kills like that, and it's something we needed at the time," said DiSalvatore, who had 11 kills and six blocks.
The win keeps the dream season alive and sends Countryside (29-0) to the state final four for the first time since 2000 and for the second time overall. Countryside will face Timber Creek at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Lakeland.
"It's something special, especially for the seniors," Bayly said. "At the beginning of the year, I just wanted our kids to work hard and compete in the districts. I didn't know what to expect, but as the year progressed I could see how we were developing and I thought (going further) might be a possibility."
Through the first two games, the Cougars contained Dr. Phillips outside hitter Megan Hodges (14 kills). But in Game 3, Hodges got several kills to spark a surge in front.
Madison Truluck (20 kills) pulled the Cougars to within 18-15 with a kill. Then, after a Cougars rally, Truluck closed the door with her final kill.
"I think it's the best game we've played all season, especially as a team," Truluck said. "… We came out a little tight but we got back to playing like we know how to play. And we didn't want to let that third game get away from us. It's amazing that we're going to states."