Legacy of leadership left behind by Shark volleyball seniors

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This year’s postseason run came up shorter than what both Ponte Vedra High volleyball fans and players have become accustomed to in recent years following a loss on the road to New Smyrna Beach, 26-24, 24-26, 25-20, 20-25, 15-13, in the Class 6A regional semifinals Oct. 29.

It was a hard-fought battle that the Sharks took the distance but came up just shy of victory in the fifth game.

This playoff run was the last for a group of seniors that experienced so much success and memorable times together throughout their high school careers.

Zeta Washington, Jessica Shattles, Ava-Grace Redick and Priya Rajhansa combined to make going on deep runs the norm within the program, including winning two straight state titles and playing in three consecutive state championship games.

Prior to the narrow loss to New Smyrna Beach, the Sharks looked the part and had everything clicking against a visiting Tallahassee Chiles squad that they were able to pounce on from the beginning and sweep in three sets.

“I feel like we played one of the best games we had ever played against Chiles,” Shattles said. “Everybody on the team was just playing so well together and as a team.”

One of the unique things about this year’s squad is the number of young players that found themselves as major contributors by season’s end.

“Our lineup was really different from the beginning of the season, and we had to work through a bunch of different things, but we eventually found that perfect lineup and it just happens to include a lot of young players.”

The mix of both the veteran and youthful talent was something that the seniors on the team really came to appreciate.

“We had a lot of new faces this year, but it was really exciting to see these girls as they come into the program,” Redick said.

Some of the positions where a youth movement took place this year included a freshman libero in Avery Webb and a sophomore right side in Ryan Murphy.

“For us (seniors) we’re kind of used to how it goes, because we’ve been to states every year, but it’s been fun to see their curiosity as they encountered it for the first time,” Redick said.

According to Zeta Washington, the questions from the younger players to the upperclassmen have been endless at times, but ones that she welcomed with open arms.

“These young souls definitely bring a different dynamic to the team,” Washington said. “As seniors sometimes we tend to be a little more serious, but all these young girls are so goofy, and they make the energy on the court much better.”

In fact, it found her looking back as a senor and reminiscing about when she was a young freshman and pondering the journey she has made to get to the point where she is at in her career with an opportunity to play at the college level on the horizon.

“It’s great knowing that I could be a mentor to them and do what I can to help them succeed and grow,” Washington said.

That legacy of leadership that the senior class has put forth this year is something special and a building block that head coach John Goings will look to maintain into the future.

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