By Devon Jeffreys
Photo by Glenn Judah
PHOTO CAPTION: The Lady Saints fell to Palm Beach Atlantic and Lynn University over the weekend. Head Coach Taylor Mott attributes the loss to the team’s lack of mental toughness. “When we’re losing these five-game matches it is because mentally we’re not tough enough,” she said.
The Flagler Volleyball team entered last weekend facing a test and their performance left much room for improvement.
Coming off two easy wins during the week, the Lady Saints hosted Palm Beach Atlantic Saturday. The match up featured two teams that hope to soon be a part of the NCAA Div. II Sunshine State Conference.
Flagler led early in the first game, but would relinquish that lead to an 8-0 PBA run that would give the Sailfish an 18-16 lead. Flagler would regain the lead at 21-20 and hold it until a collapse late in the game. With a 28-25 lead, the Lady Saints would allow five consecutive points to lose 30-28.
In game two Flagler fell behind early and looked as if game one’s end had gotten to them. But they rallied back from down 3-0 and took a 5-3 lead they would never relinquish. They would stretch their lead to seven three times before ending the game on a 3-0 run to win 30-24.
Game three would feature a point that would seemingly carry the Lady Saints to the win. Leading 23-21, the Lady Saints would lose serve, giving the Sailfish a chance to tie late in the game. However, Flagler would endure a long back and forth point that would get the crowd on their feet before Flagler put it away and extended their lead to 24-22. The Sailfish would get just one more point in the game falling 30-23 and giving Flagler a 2-1 lead in the match.
Game four seemed like it would belong to the Lady Saints early, but several unforced errors and poor communication would do them in. Holding a lead of six in the middle of the match, Flagler would allow PBA to climb back into it with a 13-6 run that would give them a 22-21 lead. Flagler would keep it close until the end when the Sailfish would run off four straight points to win it 30-24.
Game five would feature more of the same for the Lady Saints who could not seem to finish a game for the win, With an 11-8 lead and just four points from victory, they would not only allow the Sailfish back in, but would allow them to seize the momentum and control of the match with a 7-2 run to win the game 15-13 and the match in come from behind fashion 3-2.
Coach Taylor Mott attributed the loss to a lack of mental toughness within her team.
“When we’re losing these five-game matches it is because mentally we’re not tough enough,” she said. “I’m hoping it’s because we’re young, but that is our weakness right now, just not being able to finish a team off.”
Four Lady Saints would finish in double figures in kills. Justine Burkhardt had 17 along with 19 digs. Katie Beale had 15 kills and 10 digs. Leah Melton had 11 kills and Krista McAra added 10. The Lady Saints were without Caitie Culleton who had swelling in her knee giving Kelly Boese and Jessica Wedemyer more court time. Each responded with 6 kills.
McAra said the team sees the weaknesses in its mental toughness and ability to finish games. She credited PBA with being a stronger team mentally and sees it as something Flagler can learn from.
“It’s something we need to work on,” she said. “Having that intensity throughout the game. I think it comes with experience.”
Melton agreed with the assessments of McAra and Mott and hoped the team would pick itself up to become more mentally tough but didn’t make excuses for how the team played.
“We just didn’t show much maturity out there,” she said. “So we have to realize that and step it up tomorrow when we play Lynn.”
Flagler welcomed in Lynn University of the Sunshine State Conference for a rare Sunday game and their efforts to overcome the PBA loss would be met with more adversity.
Lynn opened the first game on a 5-0 run before Flagler knotted the score at 9. The game would continue to move back and forth early until Flagler jumped out on an 11-2 run to take a commanding 24-15 lead. Lynn would not be denied going on its own 13-4 run to knot the game at 28. The momentum continued to shift until a pair of Lynn errors gave Flagler the game 32-30.
Game two continued to show how evenly matched the squads appeared to be. Each time the Lady Saints would grab a lead, the Fighting Knights would answer back to stay within striking distance. Flagler seemed to have a slight upperhand for the entire match and looked primed to take a 2-0 lead in the match. With Flagler just one point away from the win, Lynn would take to consecutive points to tie it at 29, the teams would go back and forth at 30 and 31 before Lynn broke through and took a 33-31 victory.
The third game would feature 16 ties and 12 lead changes as the two squads continued to exchange barbs. The final tie would come at 25 as Lynn would proceed to run off five of the next six points to take the game 30-26 and take a 2-1 lead into game four.
The back-to-back losses proved too much for the Lady Saints to overcome. They stumbled early, setting up the Fighting Knights with a 7-2 advantage early in the fourth game and, despite efforts to get back into the game, would never tie or lead. The match would end with a 30-27 victory for Lynn, setting the Lady Saints progression back with back-to-back home losses for the first time since October 2004.
Three Lady Saints would contribute double-digit kill efforts as Melton had 15 to go along with nine blocks. Burkhardt had 13 kills and Beale had 11. Sarah Spraggins added 23 digs.
The Lady Saints ended their homestand at 5-3. They travel to Savannah College of Art and Design this Friday for a tri-match where they will take on Lee University at 5 p.m. before a rematch of last year’s regional championship game with SCAD at 7 p.m.