FORT MYERS — After fighting through one of the toughest playoff brackets in the country, Calvary Christian walked onto the floor for the Class 3A volleyball final Thursday afternoon ready for just about anything.
Then, the Warriors dominated in the biggest moments of their biggest match of the season.
In the end, it was higher-ranked Miami Westminster (No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps.com) that wilted when things got tight, falling to the underdog Warriors 25-21, 25-20, 25-21.
Now for the first time in school history, Calvary, which entered the match ranked No. 18 in the nation, is a state champion.
Heroes? Take your pick.
There was senior Noelle Walsh, who had a match-high 15 kills, and junior Lauren Cairo, who had 13 kills and a match-high 16 digs. Sophomore setter Taylor Parks finished with a match-high 40 assists. Around those bright lights were solid contributions from players such as Kendall McCain, Surina Spragg and Morgan Talley.
Not one of them ever blinked.
“After about the fifth point of the match, I turned to (Walsh) and said, ‘I’m not nervous at all,’” McCain said.
Walsh said that’s exactly what she wanted to hear, and it was the same way she was feeling.
The confidence, Walsh believed, “came from all those tough matches we had coming into this one. We were prepared.”
The Warriors’ schedule included wins over three teams ranked in the top 35 in the country and playoff victories over highly ranked Clearwater Central Catholic (twice), Bishop McLaughlin, Tampa Prep and Trinity Catholic in a dramatic, come-from behind five-setter in the semifinal round.
“They fought through all those challenging moments,” Calvary coach Kim Whitney said, “and they had that experience to draw from.”
Said Parks, “We feel when we’re playing well, there is no team we can’t beat.”
In each set on Thursday, Calvary (28-4) pulled away from Westminster (26-6) when the scores got tight with both teams around the 20-point mark.
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“I felt like Westminster was fighting off the pressure more than us,” Walsh said. “We were confident. We always believed.”
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