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Bishop McLaughlin’s first volleyball loss of season comes in Class 3A final

Bishop McLaughlin's Audrey Koenig (4) spikes the ball in the first set against Divine Savior during the Class 4A volleyball final at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers on Saturday, November 17, 2018. (BRONTE WITTPEN | Times)
Published Nov. 17, 2018

FORT MYERS — Bishop McLaughlin wasn't pulling any punches after its 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 loss to Doral Divine Savior Academy on Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A state final.

As the Hurricanes (30-1) stood on the Suncoast Credit Union Arena floor watching the Sharks celebrate their first state title, explanations weren't hard to come by.

"It's like going into a boxing match and you're getting your butt kicked," Bishop McLaughlin coach Doug Chinchar said. "What are you going to do? You either fight back or you're going to take it and lose. We took it and lost."

Junior outside hitter Gabriella Koenig was one of the Hurricanes who had to take it on the court. She has seen her team overcome adversity all season,. Until Saturday.

"We couldn't stop anyone," Koenig said. "It was just an all-around disappointment. We were on our heels and they took advantage of it."

Senior outside hitter Jessica Angelo may have put it best.

"It was one of those days on the worst day possible," she said.

And the one player who ruined the Hurricanes' day was Divine Savior junior outside hitter Fabiana Castro. She had 24 kills, more than half of the 44 her team totaled. The Sharks (24-1) fed Castro on just about every set play.

"One player should not have been able to do that to us," Angelo said. "Don't get me wrong, she is a very good player, but we needed to block her."

Castro and the Sharks came out swinging in the first set. They scored five straight points to jump out to a 7-3 lead. The Hurricanes managed to hang around and cut the lead to 14-13. Then Castro and the Sharks turned it on.

They scored 10 of the next 11 points to basically put the set away. Castro and Sofia Lugo had several kills in the stretch. Fittingly, Castro got the final point on a kill.

The second set was much of the same. Bishop McLaughlin hung around early and only trailed 11-10. Then came a kill and an ace by Isabella Mendoza and before the Hurricanes could take a breath, they were down 17-12. Divine Savior scored the final five points.

"Their best players are better than our best players, pretty simple," Chinchar said. "I was shocked. They wanted to win more than we did."

There was a glimmer of hope in the third set. Bishop McLaughlin led 19-18 thanks to two errant spikes by the Sharks. It was tied 20-20 before Divine Savior pulled away. There were two kills by Castro and a block by Mendoza in the stretch. Castro had a kill on the final point.

"We just couldn't gather ourselves," Angelo said. "We just couldn't get in system. I had maybe five in-system swings all day."

Audrey Koenig led the Hurricanes with eight kills. Terah Nejman added five kills. Adrianna Lopez had nine digs.

Bishop McLaughlin was trying to win the school's first volleyball championship. Their 30 wins are the most in school history.

Divine Savior finished the season winning 19 straight and it didn't lose a set in any of those matches. But that was little consolation to the Hurricanes.

"Our kids just have to toughen up," Chinchar said. "That was our worry all year, how tough are we? We have all the tools, but sometimes it comes down to a little bit of heart. Their heart was bigger than ours."