BROOKSVILLE — Ever since defeating Hernando this season, Weeki Wachee was sitting atop the Class 5A, District 7 standings, controlling its destiny as the postseason drew closer.
That run came to a close Wednesday night when the Leopards won in four games over the Hornets, 24-26, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22.
Hernando (11-4, 9-1), which fell for the second time to Weeki Wachee (12-6, 9-2) this past weekend at the Fivay Invitational, knew this meeting in front a raucous home crowd would be the final opportunity to knock the Hornets from the top seed before the district tournament.
The environment seemed to play to the Leopards' favor as a chanting student section behind the benches made a noticeable difference. As games came down the wire, miscommunication on the Weeki Wachee side cost the team some important points.
"I do think that the home (court) is an advantage," Hernando coach Robin Bailey said. "I like the positive energy, and we had a great crowd behind us tonight."
Despite 40 kills to only 28 for Hernando, the Hornets struggled to put away the Leopards at the end of games. A handful of unforced errors caused the team to blow leads in the final two games. In Game 3, Weeki Wachee led 19-14 before the Leopards closed them out, and in Game 4 the Hornets led 20-16 before Hernando came back.
Many of the communication issues seemed to come when junior hitter Chreslyn Serama (game-high 20 kills, two aces) was off the court because of a rotation substitution. Her power on the inside was difficult for Hernando to combat, but freshman hitter Ali Bronson (team-high 14 kills, two aces) did the best job she has done in any of the three games against the Hornets.
Hernando was without standout senior Kaitlyn Jones. According to Bailey, Jones likely tore the ACL in her right knee against Hudson last weekend at Fivay. Sophomore Grace Curren was called up from junior varsity and recorded three aces.
"We've really pulled together," Bronson said. "It was devastating when Kaitlyn got hurt, but we all knew what we had to do."