The Lakewood players walked slowly off the court after the Class 5A, District 10 tournament championship against St. Petersburg, their hands buried in their faces as they tried to wipe away the tears. Meanwhile, the Green Devils celebrated in the other corner, posing for pictures and eating cake.
It was a scene the Spartans had not experienced in awhile. Lakewood entered the Devils' Den ranked No.
6 in Class 5A and winners of four straight district titles, the longest streak in the county.
That streak ended in about 40 minutes Friday night.
Backed by the play of captains Leanne Thalman and Yvonne Pierpont, St. Petersburg cruised to a 15-11, 15-8 victory for its first district title in school history.
"The team worked together and wanted it bad enough," Green Devil coach Christen Tonry said. "Lakewood was the powerhouse in the district and it's always been our obstacle. Now, we've finally cleared it."
St. Petersburg never trailed in the first game, but had to hold off two Spartan rallies in order to win. With the game tied at 11, the Green Devils scored the final four points, two of those coming off a kill by Thalman and a block by Laura Fass.
With the score tied 8-8 in the second game, St. Petersburg took over. Allyson Radford served on one point and after trading sideouts, Lela Gonzales served the final six points for the Green Devils.
"It was an unbelievable feeling to win this match," Pierpont said. "The school has been waiting five years for this. There were some occasional doubts, but we all believed we could take it and we did. I don't know if this was the best match we've played, but it was the most pumped we've ever been. We really wanted this bad."
With the win, St. Petersburg avenged last year's district loss to Lakewood and earned the right to host Tuesday's regional quarterfinal match against Pinellas Park. The Spartans play at Clearwater.
"We played our hearts out last year and it was heartbreaking to lose to Lakewood," Thalman said. "We had a lot of motivation and we had revenge on our minds. This time, it was our turn to be champs."