It is a historic moment any time a new sport is introduced to an athletic program, which is what took place as Nease High held its first home boys volleyball contest against rival Ponte Vedra High March 10.
The Panthers defeated the Sharks, 19-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-21, to win in front of its home fans and improve to 2-0 on the season, after winning their opener on the road against Tocoi Creek.
Junior Jacob Lindsay is not only one of the leaders on the Panthers’ squad, but he was also the catalyst behind getting the program started, after having played it in school before moving from California to Florida a couple of years ago.
“It’s been cool to get a new sport introduced into the history of Nease,” Lindsay said. “We’re hoping it continues for generations to come and that it fosters a great culture.”
According to Lindsay, there are challenges associated with starting a new sport.
“As a new spring sport, there are a lot of other sports going on at this time, and with that there are a lot of players trying to play multiple sports,” Lindsay said. “There are a lot who want to play but also have those other commitments as well.”
Although the Panthers’ program is brand new, the Sharks are only in their second season playing boys volleyball and are still in the learning stages themselves.
Merritt Crowe is a junior on the Sharks’ team, which has a goal of improving its 2-14 record from a year ago.
“It was great to set the trend for the district with PV being the first one (program) other than St. Aug,” Crowe said. “It’s awesome to see these others get going. It really creates that rivalry feel.”
With the loss, the Sharks dropped to 0-2 on the season, but they continue to make strides and have won a set in both matches to start the year, including jumping out to the early lead against the Panthers following a 25-19 victory in the first set.
However, the Panthers began to find their rhythm as Michael Glova had a productive game for the Panthers offensively, including back-to-back points after hitting through a block attempt by the Sharks that deflected out of bounds and getting a kill after senior Auston Obsuth dove to dig a ball and keep possession alive late in the third set.
Glova finished with a massive night that included 18 kills, while Obsuth stuffed the stat sheet with 13 kills, four blocks and four digs.
With so many of the sets being tied late in the frame and decided by just a couple of points, Crowe knows that the Sharks were in position but must do a better job of finishing strong.
“Those sets were tough,” Crowe said. “We just needed to pass and communicate a little better. At the end of the day, it’s on us to get that corrected.”
One of the things the Sharks have focused on in practice has been the team’s serving, which showed during the game as the Sharks were able to string points together thanks to more consistent play at the service line.
“We’ve been working on getting a little more aggressive with our serving,” Crowe said. “Starting off soft and then getting harder and harder until we get into our rhythm. Once you start getting those serves in, it’s game over.”
The Sharks have a road tilt against Creekside March 23 before consecutive home games against St. Augustine and Tocoi Creek March 28 and 29, respectively, while the Panthers have a pair of home dates against Bartram Trail March 21 and Creekside March 22.