The even-keeled Lecanto High volleyball team beat Eustis 14-16, 15-13, 15-11 Monday to advance to the Class 4A, Region I final on Thursday, one win away from the state tournament.
While some at Monday's match would credit Lecanto's unemotional nature for enabling the Panthers to stay calm in pressure situations, coach Karen Boisvert blames her team's lack of killer instinct for creating those tight spots.
"They have to know that when they're ahead they have to try to win now; they can't wait," said Boisvert, whose team led 10-1 in the first game before allowing Eustis to rally for a 16-14 win. "One of the kids on the bench said, "C'mon, you're playing not to lose. You've got to play to win.'
Lecanto will play the winner of Monday's other Region I semifinal, Crawfordville Wakulla, on the road Thursday. Wakulla defeated Jacksonville Englewood 15-3, 15-6. The Lecanto-Wakulla winner plays in the state semifinals in Lakeland next week.
Against Eustis, Lecanto did not get discouraged by its first-game letdown, or even by the fact that it trailed 7-4 in the second game. The Panthers rallied, winning the final six points on the serve of Maggie Lamperelli, who chipped in three aces.
But according to Boisvert, critical serving errors by Eustis were as much a part of the Panthers victory as anything that happened on her team's side of the net.
"When they missed a serve it was at a crucial time," said Boisvert, who expected hard serves from Eustis and was not disappointed. "We missed our serves, but they were right into the net. Theirs were at the referee, under the net, wacko. So I guess we were a little better under pressure."
Individually for Lecanto, senior Gwen Francis had 10 blocks and seven service points, including three aces, and was at the service line for match-point. Rachael Sinibaldi had eight service points.