BRADENTON — SCF Manatees Volleyball team concluded one of its most successful seasons in the program’s history in a big way last Thursday night. The 13th ranked Manatees defeated 10th ranked and perennial powerhouse Miami Dade College in four sets (30-28, 29-27, 17-25, 27-25). The win also kept the Manatees undefeated at home all season.
“Although we have a successful record (22-6) and played very solid volleyball for the first half of the season, we have struggled a little with consistency since our big win against 7th ranked Central Florida in September”, commented head Coach Carmine Garofalo. “Player per player, we are as strong as anyone in the state. This win was an important confidence booster for us as we head into the State Tournament. When we believe in ourselves and play without fear, we play great volleyball”.
The victory was even more special for six sophomores who would be playing their last home game as Manatees, for this was also sophomore night. Nicole McDonald, Natalie Fraley, Kierston Smith, Rachel Arnason, Danielle Williams and Timber Times were recognized before the game for their contribution while at SCF.
Although many teams try to schedule weaker opponents for their sophomore nights, Coach Garofalo had confidence in his team’s ability. “We have a terrific group of talented individuals”, he said. “These are the kind of players that will rise to the occasion. I had total confidence that it would be an exciting match with great memories for our girls.”
As exciting as the evening was, it did take a while for the emotions of the evening to settle and for the Manatees to focus on the game. In the first set, the Manatees found themselves trailing 14-21 when Sophomore setter Kierston Smith came to the service line. She rattled off two aces and 8 service points. With a couple of kills from Rachel Arnason, the team fought back to take a 22-21 lead. After exchanging points, Arnason and Hunter combined for a kill and block to give the Manatees a 30-28 first set victory.
The second set was similar to the first, with both teams battling point for point. With the Manatees leading 20-17, the Sharks ran up five straight points to take the lead 22-20. The Manatees fought back with a run of their own to recapture the lead (24-22). With the Manatees trailing 26-27, Canadians Nicole McDonald and Rachel Arnason teamed up for three straight points (one block and two kills respectively) to give SCF its second straight set over the Sharks.
Game three started flat for the host Manatees, who quickly fell behind 1-5 on a number of unforced errors. “Whenever you give a great team like Miami Dade a lead early in the game, they will take advantage of it and make it difficult for you to come back”, commented Coach Garofalo. The Sharks took game three 24-17.
In game four, 16 unforced errors, including 4 service errors by the Manatees gave the Sharks a 24-18 lead. With the game on the line, Rachel Arnason’s kill brought Kierston Smith up to the service line once again. Smith fired off 7 straight serves and with a total team effort, which included kills and blocks from Hunter, Arnason and Williams, the Manatees took a 25-24 lead. After the Sharks tied the game with a kill, a Brittane Hunter kill and Shark hitting error gave the Manatees an exciting come from behind game and match.
“I am very proud of all our players”, stated Coach Garofalo. “It’s tough enough playing one of the top teams in the country and winning, but to come from behind when you are six points down and they have game point, it really says a lot about what this team is capable of doing. Kierston (41 assists, 29 service points) and Rachel (18 kills, 2 blocks) both had the best games of their careers and played a big role in our victory. Nicole (5 blocks, 5 kills) and Brittane (9 kills, 7 blocks) both did a great job shutting down the Sharks’ Romero, one of the top 3 hitters in the country. Tessa and Danielle also made great contributions, as did our terrific back-row specialists, Natalie, Brittany and Abi. Without great defense and passing, our offense would not have been able to do the great job they did.”
The Manatees' next game is at the FCSAA State Tournament against Pensacola State College starting tonight. Game time is 1PM and will be webcast live as well as archived at http://www.psblive.com/. For a complete schedule of game times and video links, visit www.SCFManatees.com under the Volleyball Schedule page.
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