When the Flagler College Lady Saints Volleyball squad took the court on Saturday, it was under an odd set of circumstances. It was 9 a.m. and they were starting their first of three matches on the day, five total encompassing Friday and Saturday.
The early match had the Lady Saints matched up against the NCAA Div. II Armstrong Atlantic State University Pirates. Armstrong Atlantic entered the match as the top team in the Peach Belt Conference and has been the early favorite to win the conference.
Matching up against NCAA Div. II teams, Flagler has had its ups and downs this season. They entered the match-up with a 4-5 record against Div. II squads.
On this morning, Armstrong Atlantic proved far more prepared and rolled through the Lady Saints in a 3-0 shutout (30-15, 30-23. 30-15). It was the first time Flagler had been swept at home since a loss to Rollins in 2004.
“We came out really flat and that was a good team,” Coach Taylor Mott said. “Our problem all year long has been that we’re easily intimidated and I think we were just intimidated from the get go.”
“On the court it felt like we were playing hard, but we just couldn’t make the transition,” Burkhardt said. “It was just a matter of going out and trying to play our best and obviously, that didn’t happen.” Burkhardt added that the early morning, after nine games the day before, might have affected the team’s play.
“They were a really strong team,” sophomore Leah Melton said. ” We didn’t come out and play our game either. If we had lost it would have been one thing, but to lose the way we did is not how we want to go out.”
“I think after that first match, the coaches really wanted us to get fired up about it,” Melton said. “I think we were. We know that these are some of our last home games and we really wanted to show our fans that we could do it.”
Game one showed what Flagler was made of coming out, as they strolled to a 30-19 victory. However, in game two, Flagler continued to be plagued by a their inability to close a game out.
Leading 20-14, the Lady Saints would allow St. Francis to go on a 10-2 run and gain a 24-22 advantage. Flagler would come raging back knotting the game at 28. It would be tied at 29 and 30 before Flagler put away a 30-32 victory.
“It may have been a communication breakdown,” Burkhardt said. “We may have been a little tired and thinking they were going to give it to us. It was good to come back and win.”
Game three would not feature nearly as much suspense as the Lady Saints led from the time the score hit double digits until the end — a 30-21 win — giving them a sweep victory. The sweep was something that Burkhardt and Melton both agreed was a necessity because of fatigue.
“We had watched these teams play and we were all saying we had to beat these teams,” Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt led the team with 11 kills and also had 16 digs. Krista McAra tallied six blocks and three aces.
In the third and final match of the game, the Lady Saints seemed to carry the momentum garnered from the win against St. Francis and rolled right over a seemingly inferior Marian squad (30-16, 30-18, 30-25), who held the lead just four times for the entire match.
“I think we felt comfortable after the second match and we took that momentum into the third match,” Mott said. “I think they just played with confidence. It’s been a problem all year long and I think they actually went into that match with confidence.”
Burkhardt was on fire, despite playing in only two of the three games and racked up 14 kills. McAra added four blocks and Carrie Arnette had 39 assists and four aces. Katie Beale made her presence felt as well with an 11-kill performance.
“She played great that entire match,” Mott said of Beale “[Match two] was probably the first time she’s ever sat out an entire match. I don’t know if that was a wake up call. She just came through in that third match.” After starting the season red-hot, Beale had been seeing less time due to inconsistent play.
“Momentum and communication are something you can still have even when you are physically exhausted, which I think we all are,” Melton said after the matches. “So that really helped us out in that last match. I think overall four wins out of five games, that’s a pretty solid weekend.”
At the conclusion of that final match, the exhausted Lady Saints made a statement of their own. After their customary post-game huddle, each player collapsed to the floor in a sarcastic show of exhaustion. The Lady Saints, now 19-11, good for a .633 winning percentage, have earned their rest.