By Jeff Odom
It looked like momentum was turning in the Carrollwood Day School (CDS) volleyball team’s favor.
Then, the ball hit one of the court lines for the match-ending point. A stunned silence from the Patriots fans seemed to linger as a team’s once promising postseason hopes were extinguished.
The No. 2 seeded CDS (19-8) fell to No. 3 Seffner Christian 11-25, 25-22, 25-23, 26-24, in the Class 3A-District 8 semifinals Oct. 23.
“They played with heart; they truly did” said Patriots coach Travis Nead.
CDS found itself in a tighter battle after breezing through the first set.
The poise of recent junior varsity call-up Chrissy Brynjolffson (nine aces) and Aisling Sheehan (11 kills, two aces) kept it close. Still, the Crusaders (12-10) went blow for blow and eventually came out on top, scoring nine of 10 points in the middle of the second set.
In the third, the Patriots struggled to get a leg up on the host Seffner Christian as the squads traded points nine times before the Crusaders broke out with three straight.
That’s when senior and four-year team captain Nicole Neugebauer stepped up in the fourth set.
She fired off four straight kills; Seffner Christian answered with another five-point streak.
CDS tied the fourth at 24-24 late, but dropped the next two points and the match.
“It’s been a big journey going from a really small, underdog team freshman year … ‘til we have a great group of girls senior year who played their hearts out,” said senior libero Grace Kerkviet.
Through tears, Neugebauer said she will cherish the experiences she had at CDS.
“We had a record-breaking year, and it was absolutely incredible,” Neugebauer said. “To help watch this program grow from our freshman year when I had three wins to now when we have 19 is great, and I know next year they’re going to be unbelievable.”
In the other semifinal, after trailing 2-0, No. 4 seed Bishop McLaughlin came close to pulling an upset against No. 1 Tampa Prep, but fell in five sets 25-20, 25-16, 20-25, 22-25, 15-6.
Alyssa Mathis led the Hurricanes (16-9) with 23 kills and seven blocks.
“It’s all about getting better,” said Hurricanes coach Doug Chinchar. “We had a tough time early on this season, but we got it going at the end. (Tampa Prep) won’t beat us again, ever.”