CRYSTAL RIVER – Weeki Wachee came into the Class 6A, District 7 Tournament this week as the third seed, yet looked the part of a reigning district champion.
On Thursday night, the Lady Hornets knocked off the hosts and top seed, Crystal River, to earn a second straight district crown, 21-25, 29-27, 25-22, 25-17.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Weeki Wachee head coach Kelly Werkmeister said. “The girls came out, they played very well. Even with the intermission that they had to deal with they stayed focused. It came down to the best two teams and it was a great game. The girls played very, very well on both sides.
“All these games that we played during the season were practice to us. When it came to it and we practiced hard, this was what counted the most. It didn’t matter if we came in first or we came in seventh, we had to fight from there and that’s what we worked for all year long and built up to what we did tonight.”
In the early going, everything seemed to line up for the Lady Pirates (21-6). They pulled away in the opening game when Natalie Ortiz served four points to provide a 19-13 advantage. Two more points off the serve of Madison Pateracki made it 22-15, an ample cushion for the hosts.
When Ortiz served three points late in the second, Crystal River held a 22-19 edge. But the Lady Hornets (18-8) scored five in a row with Amberlyn Werkmeister serving to pull ahead, 24-22.
Twice both teams squandered an opportunity at game point, until an ace by Amber Paulsen finished things off for Weeki Wachee.
“It was great. The girls stayed focused. Even after what we had to deal with, they stayed focus,” Coach Werkmeister said. “They stayed focused. They stayed calm, and they just executed very well.”
“I think we were right there. It could have gone either way,” Crystal River head coach Mike Ridley said. “Our defense was getting it done. We were doing some things well. And then we weren’t.”
The third game was tight throughout, until the Lady Hornets scored four of the last five points to break a 21-all tie. They got out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth and never trailed, with Amberlyn Werkmeister and Brooke Sereda serving three points apiece to make it 24-16.
Midway through the fourth game, a medical emergency in the stands forced a lengthy delay. The person involved was in good condition after being aided by several people in attendance and taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
Crystal River was led by Maddi Ruble with eight kills and four blocks. Kaite Eichler had 17 assists. Miranda Werkmeister had 19 kills and 25 digs, while Sereda added 15 kills for Weeki Wachee. Sarah Asbury totaled 45 assists and Paulsen tallied 26 digs.
Miranda Werkmeister was particularly strong in the final set, recording eight kills including the game-winner.
“It feels great, but I still feel like we have more to accomplish. But the season’s not over yet,” Miranda Werkmeister said. “I just felt more confident in myself. I had my teammates building me up throughout the whole (fourth) game, and they just had my back through it all.
“We’ve practiced a lot. We’ve worked harder during practices, and from there on we’ve just brought it into the games.”
Next up, the Lady Hornets will host Gulf in a regional quarterfinal Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“Homecoming this weekend, and turn around and get ready for Tuesday,” Coach Werkmeister said. “Let’s see where we go from there. Let’s see how long the ride takes us right now and just keep on going.
“We’ve played Gulf before in the Fivay tournament, we did beat them, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s anybody’s game on any given day, but we will still train hard and push as far as we can go.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.