Lady Saints halt skid, take down Webber, Warner

By Devon Jeffreys

It may have been Friday the 13th, but the Lady Saints volleyball team didn’t let their demons get the best of them.

The Lady Saints took the court with a cloud hanging over their head — a four game losing streak that stretched over two weeks. The last two of those losses came exactly a week prior in Savannah and the time off gave Flagler plenty of time to think about their mistakes.

The day started early for Flagler with an afternoon contest against Webber International. Webber entered the match with a 9-2 record. The only teams to defeat the Warriors this season were Flagler and SCAD. In the previous meeting the Lady Saints swept the Warriors in Babson Park.

The Lady Saints would hold court with a lead in the first game, but again were plagued by an inability to close and wound up falling 31-29. The next two games would swing back to Flagler (30-22, 30-27), although Webber would remain within striking distance until the end.

“Webber has improved a lot,” Coach Taylor Mott said. “I think we played kind of even keel, not with a whole lot of emotion. Webber was consistent. They didn’t make a whole lot of errors. We made a lot of errors and kept them in the match the whole time.”

Game four would go to Webber, 30-23, setting up a decisive fifth game. The Lady Saints, feeling a sense of urgency, fought through the tough game and pulled out a 15-10 victory, effectively ending their losing streak.

“It’s good to know we can win a five game match because we haven’t won the last few that we’ve played,” Mott said. She also said it was important to get the monkey off the team’s back and end the losing streak.

“We had a few days off over the weekend so we looked at it as a new season,” freshman outside hitter Justine Burkhardt said. “We had on our board in the locker room ‘Welcome to Flagler Volleyball, brand new season,’ just to kind of wipe that (losing streak) off our minds.”

Burkhardt continued to lead the team in kills, contributing 19 to go along with 18 digs for a double double. Caitie Culleton returned strong from an injury that had left her out of action since Sept. 26, and contributed 14 kills. Sarah Spraggins led the defense with 29 digs.

“I think we should have beat them in three,” sophomore middle blocker Leah Melton said. “But if you have to take them to five, at least win and I think that’s what we did.”

Melton ended the match with 11 kills, 4 block assists and three aces. She said that when the team went to the fifth game she told them, “we need to stop losing and start winning,” and that’s exactly what they did.

In the nightcap, the Lady Saints took on a Warner Southern team coming off a sweep suffered at the hands of Marian College.

The Royals jumped out to an early advantage but that would be short lived. Flagler would take the lead at 3-2 and never looked back, the Lady Saints did have a struggle when they hit the 20s and were looking to close the game out, somewhat of a theme of the season, but overcame some hurdles and put it away 30-23.

“It’s been a reoccurring problem all year long,” Mott said. “In practice we work on drills finishing and we do it fine. I think we get complacent and then when the team starts to make a run we get nervous.”

Game two featured a different Lady Saints team and some disappointing results. With a number of key contributors on the sidelines resting up with three matches to come on Saturday, the youngest Flagler players got a lot of court time, but didn’t make the most of it. The Royals took a 2-1 lead early and never looked back going on extended runs while Flagler made errors and missed opportunities to gain momentum. The Royals ended game two with a 30-20, but, in turn, seemed to light a fire under the Lady Saints.

In game three the Lady Saints looked like a different team. They closed out Warner with back-to-back big games in the third and fourth (30-12, 30-14) and put to rest any doubt that they would win.

“We put our starters back in and let them take care of business and they did,” Mott said. Melton entered the match for the first time in game three and recorded six kills in that game alone. She finished with nine.

“Leah is an emotional player and she brings a lot to the court,” Mott said. In my opinion she helps us blocking. She blocks balls that you think there’s no way she’s going to block. She’s a huge presence on the court. She definitely had some nice swings and it turned the momentum back around.”

Melton was happy to get back off the bench despite some aches and pains.

“I like for other people to get a chance to play but when I’m sitting on the side I’m thinking I want to get in there,” she said. “I thought to myself after the second game, I’m going to go out here and change it the best I know how.” Melton said her presence seemed to loosen up the rest of the team.

Burkhardt and Culleton each had 12 kills and junior Jessica Wedemyer had 5 total blocks.

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