By Devon Jeffreys | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Flagler College volleyball team, there will be no trophy, no regional or national tournament but don’t tell them they didn’t win a championship on Friday night because as much as they could, they did.
A team still in its NCAA infancy, with no postseason light at the end of the tunnel, had just one game to look forward to at the end of the year, another match with rival SCAD.
With emotions running high, the Saints managed to overcome their demons, and a 2-1 SCAD lead, to bring home a 3-2 victory and their own little championship.
“I just think it couldn’t have ended any better,” Flagler head coach Taylor Mott said.
The Saints entered the SCAD match sporting a 19-14 record, the result of an inconsistent season. They also had the cloud of a five match losing streak to SCAD, dating back to 2005, hanging over their heads.
“I think if we were still in the Florida Sun Conference this would be a championship match,” Mott said before the game. “It would be us and SCAD playing for the regional championship.”
Before the game, Flagler (20-14) honored it’s five seniors: Krista McAra, Liz Moyer, Katie Pommier, Catie Culleton and Audrey Holtz in their last home match at Flagler.
“It was emotional,” Mott said. “But everybody came ready to play.”
Fresh off the senior night emotion, the Saints got off to a fast start, taking control and winning the first game. SCAD came back to take the next two games, putting Flagler in a deep hole and conjuring up memories of their last five meetings.
“It was definitely a game of momentum,” Mott said. “In the third game we played terrible, I thought we had kind of given up.”
But, after a pep talk from Mott, the Saints won the fourth game and sent the match to a fifth and deciding game.
“I just tried to remind them that this was the seniors’ last game,” Mott said. “We had a huge crowd there. They were all into it. Just play as hard as you can and whatever happens happens. Don’t walk away feeling like you didn’t give it everything you had. I think they definitely did that. We were like two different teams from the third game to the fourth game.”
The fifth game swung in SCAD’s favor early but an 8-4 lead soon became a 12-12 tie and the final momentum swing was set up by a kill from Justine Burkhardt that gave the Saints a 16-15 lead.
“We just kept working away and definitely played with emotion and intensity,” Mott said. “If you look at the stats, they should have won. They out hit us, out blocked us, about did everything better than we did. I just think we played with a little bit more intensity and emotion than they did.”
A Bees attack error would end the fifth game at 17-15 and the match, in favor of the Saints.
“We shouldn’t have let it get to a fifth game,” Burkhardt said. “It was awesome to beat SCAD especially from losing to them in three, fairly bad, earlier in the year. The fans were just awesome. It was definitely the high point of the season. Especially being at the end.”
Burkhardt, a sophomore, finished with 19 kills on the evening to lead the Saints on the scoreboard but the emotion of senior night carried them through the match.
“We haven’t beaten SCAD on senior night since my freshman year,” McAra said. “It felt amazing.”
McAra, in her last match at Flagler Gym, broke the school block assist record with 304.
“It was phenomenal just because it was right down to the wire,” Holtz said.
Holtz finished with 28 assists. Holtz and Culleton came to Flagler last season as junior college transfers. Culleton finished with 10 kills.
“It was a great season ending win for our last home game,” Moyer said. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Moyer, a four year Saint, had 17 digs on the evening. Pommier added 16 digs. The Saints finished a season where they’ve spent much of their time on the road, 7-3 at home.
The Saints finish up their season tonight in Deland with a season ending match with Stetson (10-15).
“It is our last match, that alone is enough to get us really pumped up for the game,” Pommier said.
The Saints won last season’s meeting between the two teams 3-1 at home.
“I fell like I’m already up for it since we won that SCAD game,” Culleton said. “I think that will be like a last little hurrah for us.”
Want more Flagler volleyball? Check back Friday, Nov. 9 for my annual (and final) season wrap-up.