There was as much relief as celebration when the Ponte Vedra girls volleyball team beat Jensen Beach on Saturday, Nov. 14, to win the Class 5A state championship.
The pressure of winning 36 matches in a row dating back to the middle of last season and competing for a third state title in four years may have affected the Sharks throughout their match at the Suncreast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers. Added with the uncertainty and safety precautions created by the COVID-19 virus, the championship match proved to be as much about emotion as skill.
Fortunately for Ponte Vedra, the deciding factor was purely about skill.
When the match ended after three sets, the Sharks seemed subdued, coach Robin Mignerey said. Slowly, however, they soon realized the magnitude of their long-term success.
“It was weird because we couldn’t celebrate. It was like the Master’s. It was surreal,” Mignerey said. “OK we just won. We were up kind of big in that third [set] so it took out all that angst and pressure a little bit. We were a little melancholy. It’s the first time I’ve seen them like that all year.”
PVHS (27-0) was nearly flawless, especially on serves. The Sharks were good on 63-of-74 serves, with Jessica Shattles, Amy Burkhardt and Kendall Mignerey combining to put 41-of-42 attempts into play, while the Falcons made 46-of-56 serves.
After losing the first set 25-17, Jensen Beach rallied in the second. But a couple unforced errors allowed the Sharks to win 25-21, and the third set – 25-16 – was little more than a formality.
“Usually in the second [set] you get a little push back,” Mignerey said. “You get in a groove and we saw that again. Jensen Beach was serving tougher, but they made some errors, especially in that third set, and that opened up the gap.”
Burkhardt, a senior outside hitter, had 12 kills on 28 total attacks. She also had 12 digs. Shattles, a sophomore setter, contributed 31 assists and 11 digs.
“We passed so good. That really played to our advantage,” Mignerey said. “Maybe they could have served tougher. I don’t know. They were making some misses that kind of helped us out. It opened up our confidence. They just couldn’t get anything going.”
Rachel Johnson had eight kills, while Lily Zeras led the team with 18 digs and Kendall Mignerey chipped in 10 digs.
Ponte Vedra also won championships in 2017 and 2019. Of their 27 victories, 26 were 3-0 sweeps.