By Kyle LoJacono
For the first time, the Carrollwood Day School (CDS) volleyball team is feeling expectations.
The Patriots (17-6) have locked up the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A-District 8 tournament with a 3-1 record, the first time they’ve finished better than .500 in league play in their seven-year history.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said senior setter/rightside hitter Nicole Neugebauer, who has been playing with the squad since her eighth-grade year. “When I decided to come to CDS for high school, I wasn’t anticipating having a strong sports program because we haven’t had it in the past. As I’ve been progressing through high school, the program has gotten so much better. This season has been unbelievable. I didn’t expect it when we started this season.”
Neugebauer and senior libero Grace Kerkvliet, both team captains, said the program has come a long way the last four years.
“We started as a very small team my freshman year, and we’ve grown so much,” Kerkvliet said. “We’ve got a great group of girls who work really hard. We’ve got a great coach who teaches us new plays. It’s been great to see us all come together.”
Third-year CDS coach Travis Nead said it’s all been about building the program.
“The first year we got here it was about teaching the fundamentals,” Nead said. “Getting the right people in here who were committed, wanted to play and enjoyed the sport. We built on that last year to have the best season as of yet.”
The returning Patriots were also fueled by how close they were to making their first playoff appearance a year ago.
CDS lost a five-set marathon in the 3A-8 tournament to district host Bishop McLaughlin. A victory would have sent the Patriots to the postseason.
“When we were in districts against Bishop McLaughlin it was 12-11 in the fifth, and we ended up losing, unfortunately, by two points,” Neugebauer said. “It was heartbreaking, but going into my senior season it made me want to beat them that much more and do that much better in districts this year. I have a goal of making it past districts. … It’s fueled me a lot more.”
Kerkvliet added, “We knew what we could have done in districts last year. We know that, so we take that into practice each day.”
Along with the motivation to take another step is a new feeling around the program.
“Confidence I would say is different,” Nead said. “Last year, we didn’t have that season defining win. We didn’t beat anyone we weren’t supposed to. This year we do, and in each game we’ve got hope. That’s the biggest mindset changes.”
Nead said winning at Bishop McLaughlin 25-16, 25-14, 25-18 on Sept. 27 is one of those big wins. Not only did it help ease the pain from districts last year, but it also locked up the No. 2 seed in the 3A-8 tournament this season.
“It was one of our most constant and complete games,” Nead said. “In the past we might lose focus and let them win a set or come back and beat us. They didn’t let that happen this time. … We’re taking care of business. They’re going all the way in those tough games this year, and I’ve got to give it to my seniors because it’s coming from their leadership and their work ethic.”
Neugebauer said the extra effort will all be worth it for a trip to the playoffs.
“I don’t even have words for what it would mean to make it to regionals,” Neugebauer said. “I’ve only ever dreamt of it. When we started four years ago, I thought it would never happen for us. Now that we’re close, it would be incredible.”
The 3A-8 tournament is at Seffner Christian Oct. 22 to 25, with the championship match Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
The Patriots hosted Academy at the Lakes Oct. 15, but results were not available by press time. They close the regular season at Bayshore Christian Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
CDS volleyball roster
No. Player Pos. Yr.
1 Casey Brynjolfsson S/RH Fr.
2 Kelsey Bridges DS So.
3 Aisling Sheehan OH So.
4 Nicole Neugebauer S/RH Sr.
5 Madison Ghodsi DS So.
6 Kylie Saigol OH Fr.
8 Nicole Ianni MH Jr.
13 Stevie Schweitzer MH Fr.
16 Grace Kerkvliet L Sr.
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