The Ponte Vedra Sharks girls volleyball team is just two wins away from a third straight state title after outlasting visiting Tallahassee Leon to win a marathon contest, 23-25, 33-31, 20-25, 25-22, 15-7.
“It’s just continuing the legacy,” Ponte Vedra junior Zeta Washington said.
The regional final victory punches the Sharks’ (28-1) ticket to the Class 6A state semifinals against Viera High (17-9), who the Sharks will host at 2 p.m. Nov. 13.
There was a ton of anticipation heading into the regional final matchup, which pitted the top two teams in the Class 6A rankings according to MaxPreps.
It wound up living up to the hype and became an instant classic that those in attendance will remember for some time.
“We knew moving to the 6A division that the competition was going to be even harder,” Washington said. “It was a really fun game to play, and the energy on the court was just incredible.”
The Lions (25-5) grabbed the early advantage with a 25-23 first set victory despite the Sharks leading 10-5 early in the set.
However, the Sharks came back and demonstrated their championship grit by winning a 33-31 second set that seemed like it would go on forever before Chelsea Sutton had a kill and Jackie Jewett followed it up with a block to seal the deal.
“There is definitely some fatigue that sets in, but that’s also when the adrenaline of just being in that moment sets in the most,” Ponte Vedra senior Ava Witt said.
After the Lions won the third set, the Sharks once again responded in the face of adversity to win the fourth set, 25-22, to force a fifth set.
“It was all about just playing our game,” Witt said. “Pass, set and hit and just do it one play at a time. Leon is a great team, and we knew we had to stay at that level and just give it our all.”
Jessica Shattles came up big for the Sharks in the fourth set win, especially when she had back-to-back digs on the same possession, where Ponte Vedra wound up getting a point to go up 13-10.
According to Shattles, she credited her digs to being able to make the right adjustments depending on the hitter and their tendencies.
Although they were only up by three, Shattles’ digs sent a message that the Sharks were not ready to have their season come to an end.
“I feel like we really stepped up in the fourth game and were really playing clean consistently,” Shattles said. “I know it’s not going to be easy (moving forward), but I feel like we pushed so hard tonight, that we can just keep pushing all the way through.”
The Sharks were able to carry maintain the momentum heading into the final set and went up 12-5 after a Kendall Mignerey block. She also wound up getting the game-clinching ace to secure the Sharks victory.
Mignerey and Rachel Johnson had huge offensive performances with 21 and 18 kills respectively, while Zeta Washington and Sutton also added 11 each.
Shattles led the team with 53 assists and five aces.
The Sharks’ semifinal opponent Viera defeated New Smyrna Beach, 25-21, 26-24, 18-25, 22-25, 15-7, to advance. They are ranked No. 16 in Class 6A according to MaxPreps.
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