WINTER HAVEN — No matter what happened during Thursday’s Class 3A state volleyball final, Carrollwood Day School players and coaches said they never doubted they would defeat Miami Westminster Christian.
Even though there appeared to be several moments of serious uncertainty.
For starters, CDS not only lost the first set 25-23, it did so with a couple of late, shaky-looking service errors and general poor execution.
Coach Doug Chinchar acknowledged his team may have looked tight to an outside observer but said he knew his team was fine.
“We just missed on some things, but that happens,” Chinchar said. “I don’t know why exactly it happened, but it did. All I told the team after that first set was we should have won it.”
Said Chinchar’s oldest daughter, Naomi, a senior, “I wasn’t worried about a thing because I knew, and we all knew, we were going to get it straight.”
It turned out the Chinchars — including freshman outside hitter Lydia and assistant coach Sarah — were right in every way.
The Patriots followed by winning the next three sets and ultimately the state title — 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 29-27 — getting their resiliency sternly tested time after time.
In the final few minutes, Westminster, which has lost in three straight state finals to Tampa Bay area teams, fought off five match points before finally falling.
Through it all, Naomi Chinchar kept setting her sister Lydia, who kept pounding down violent spikes, several of which kept coming back up from outstanding defensive play by Westminster Christian (24-9).
“Every (spike) felt good, and I was completely confident on every try,” said Lydia, who finished with a match-high 35 kills along with 19 digs and 2½ blocks. “I mean, I do this every day in practice, and we’ve done it against very good teams this year.”
If confidence comes from surviving tough competition, then CDS — 31-2 and ranked No. 3 overall in the state and 21st nationally by MaxPreps — should have been filled with it.
There may have been no team in the state, or maybe even the country, that played in a tougher classification or had a rougher road down the stretch than the Patriots.
In the playoffs, CDS beat defending state champion Clearwater Central Catholic, defending region finalist Sarasota Cardinal Mooney and avenged one of their two losses this season with a win over Berkeley Prep. In the state semifinal, CDS took out highly ranked Orlando Lake Highland Prep.
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“There is nothing we haven’t seen,” Doug Chinchar said.
Chinchar, a former assistant who was promoted to head coach this offseason, had never before won a state title. In 11 seasons as head coach at Bishop McLaughlin, he led the Hurricanes to state semifinal appearances three straight seasons (2018-20), including a state final appearance in 2018, but never hoisted the title trophy.
Now Chinchar has led the Patriots to their second state title, the first coming in 2017.
He got a little teary-eyed when he voiced one of his most poignant thoughts.
“This was the last match we will play in together as a family,” Chinchar said, with Naomi set to graduate in the spring. “That’s another reason I think we believed we were going to win. This season had to end this way. That’s why we left everything out there.”