Warriors victory spurred from last year’s early exit
By Kyle LoJacono
With Steinbrenner High leading two games to one and the score 24-19 in the fourth against Palmetto High, many of the Warriors thought back to last year’s Class 4A, Region 3 quarterfinal match.
Last season the Warriors (18-9) were defeated by Lakewood High in five games after giving up a similar lead, but managed to seal the win this year in four — 25-22, 25-16, 21-25, 25-21 against Palmetto Nov. 2.
“The score was 24-19 and the intensity was exactly like it was last year except it was 24-17 in the fourth game then,” said junior libero Cary Anne Bame. “The fact that our team pulled through, communicated and came back and won that game is awesome. The feeling is incredible and I know we can go far.”
Steinbrenner coach Staci Elias said the team looked much different this year in that fourth game.
“I think they were remembering last year,” Elias said. “It was a lot like game four last year, but they pushed through. I made the comment to my assistant coaches that you could see the difference in the eyes of the seniors. They didn’t have that scared look in that game four. They had that look like let’s do it. Let’s finish this.”
One of those seniors is co-captain and outside hitter Natalia Ortiz, who had seven kills in the match.
“I just wanted to give it my all because I’m a senior,” Ortiz said. “I didn’t want this to be my last match, so I went as hard as I could to kill every ball.
“Last year it was almost the same scenario and we got kind of caught up, but this year we pushed through,” Ortiz continued. “We wanted to finish and we showed everyone that we can do it.”
Erin McMurtry was another senior who was setting up Ortiz’s kills all night. She became the Warriors setter in the summer
after last season’s starter Sam Drane left the program.
“I’ve got to give credit to my seniors, especially my senior setter Erin,” Elias said. “She got into a little slump there in game three and pulled herself out of it. This is a kid who hasn’t set since she was in middle school and took on that role this season. The things she’s doing as a setter, we couldn’t have imagined her having this much growth.”
McMurtry said she felt very awkward setting in the summer, but she has learned the position quickly.
“I’m so much more comfortable setting now,” McMurtry said. “From the first time I started setting this summer to now I’m so much more comfortable with it.”
McMurtry had 32 assists in the regional match while adding three aces.
Steinbrenner had a pretty even frontline attack thanks in part to McMurtry’s setting, with junior outside hitter Miranda Powell leading the way with 10 kills. Senior middle hitter Megan Moyer had seven and freshman outside hitter Rachel Mathison added six.
Mathison, who did not join the varsity squad until near the end of the season, had the match-winning kill.
“It felt so good,” Mathison said. “I was just thinking, please come to me. I just hit it and bam it fell in and oh my goodness what a feeling.”
Bame contributed a team-high 16 digs in the win. Powell had a team-leading five aces, while senior Katie Dickerson added three.
“It was a total team effort and I think that has a lot to do with how we are together,” McMurtry said. “I think we’re even tighter this year. We were tight last year, but we’re even tighter now. We’re all good friends away from volleyball and we all get each other.”
Steinbrenner travels to play Braden River High in Bradenton Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
Freedom’s season ends in Venice
Freedom High’s volleyball season came to an end Nov. 3 when the Patriots were defeated at Venice High 25-7, 25-6, 25-12 in the 5A-3 regional quarterfinals. Freedom was having one of the best seasons in program history and finished with a 13-9 record and only one district loss in the regular season. The Patriots will lose five seniors from the team.
-All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches.