WESLEY CHAPEL — After winning the first two games Tuesday night, Steinbrenner trailed Wiregrass Ranch by four points late in the third. Warriors coach Laura Stegenga called her team to a tight huddle.
Just play, she said. Aim for five points in a row.
The Warriors reached four, tying the game and eventually pulling ahead to sweep Wiregrass Ranch 25-20, 25-23, 25-23.
"We always talk about them having fun," Stegenga said. "They know how to work really hard, and sometimes they take themselves too seriously."
Steinbrenner (13-2, 5-0) scored 13 of the game's first 15 points and led the entire first game to jump ahead against the Bulls (12-4, 2-2) in a matchup between two of the top teams in Class 7A, District 8.
Stegenga said her players were on fire for the first game but slowed down in the second.
"We just have to work on finishing," she said.
Wiregrass reached its first tie early in the second game after an ace by senior Kayleigh Putman. The Bulls tied two more times in the game and pulled ahead for the first time in the match at 10-9 with a kill by freshman Madison Besterfield.
The teams battled back and forth, with a pattern of one-point leads and ties before a Wiregrass error gave Steinbrenner the second.
The Bulls led the third game in the beginning, earning three straight points and staying ahead until the Warriors tied them at 6-6 and 12-12. The Bulls continued to lead, reaching 19-15, until Stegenga called the timeout.
Junior Avery Bradshaw answered with three consecutive kills, and a Wiregrass error tied the game again. Senior Rachel Mathison added two kills in the closing minutes to help Steinbrenner seal its eighth consecutive win — and keep the Warriors atop the district.
Junior Lauren Heldt led with 12 kills, followed by junior Ashley Akers (11), Bradshaw (nine) and Mathison (nine).
Senior Grace Olsen led the Bulls with a match-high 13 kills.
Mary Kenney can be reached at [email protected]bay.com.