With one game down and a 13-12 lead in the next against Sarasota Riverview in the Class 6A, District 8 volleyball tournament, Countryside was about to stake claim to its first district tournament match victory in school history.
Then disaster almost struck.
Jacque DeClercq turned her right ankle and had to be carried off the court. Afterward, the Cougars watched Riverview score the next three points to win the game and tie the match.
Before the start of the third game, Countryside coach Steve Beck gathered his team in a semi-circle around DeClercq on the bench and said: "This is the season right here."
Countryside rallied around its injured teammate to score a 15-12, 13-15, 15-11 victory. In the other match, Seminole lost to Manatee 15-13, 7-15, 15-6.
The Cougars play Northeast in a semifinal at 4 p.m. today. Manatee plays Sarasota in the other semifinal match at 5:30 p.m. The winner of each match goes on to the championship match at 8 p.m.
After starting the season 4-8, Countyside has won 10 in a row.
"The difference between the first part of the year and the second half is that we played the five toughest teams in the area," Beck said. "But during the later part of the year, the team started to jell and really came together."
Beck replaced DeClercq, who had eight kills and two blocks, with Colleen Gorlewski. Gorlewski had just come back to the team after a broken foot sidelined her for most of the season. She responded with 10 kills and two blocks.
Janeen Sobush, a senior outside hitter who has been with the team for three years, led the team with 12 kills.
"In the first part of the year, we weren't playing well as a team," Sobush said. "Now, we have everybody healthy and have three experienced middle hitters. So when Jacque went down, we were able to put somebody right in."
Seminole, playing aggressive defense, stayed with Manatee for much of the match and led at one point in each game.
"I wish we had two more weeks," Seminole coach Sandra Mills said. "We just got Jeanette Parsch and Christina Robertson back, so were really at mid-season form. We also had Traci Verdicchio, our middle hitter, out for the match. But we played real hard."