WEEKI WACHEE – For Weeki Wachee, Tuesday night surely had too familiar a feel. Yes, the venue had changed, but the outcome and situation closely mirrored the end of the 2015 campaign.
The Lady Hornets hosted Ponte Vedra in the Class 6A, Region 2 final and just as they had a year ago in this same round but on the road, they fell to the Lady Sharks in four games, this time 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16.
“It was a little more frustrating at this point, because it was more of our seniors, that they really wanted to push forward,” Weeki Wachee head coach Kelly Werkmeister said. “But still then just bringing in the players that we did; same system, different personnel. But it was just the nerves got to a couple of our players and that’s all it was.
“But all in all, the way the girls regrouped, they played great. I can’t ask for really anything more because at the beginning of the year I would never have even thought that we would be here. We didn’t know where we were going to go.”
Until halfway through the third game, the Lady Hornets (21-9) seemed to have the upper hand. They led 14-9 in the opening set before Ponte Vedra (20-9) rallied back, going in front 19-17 when Sydney Parker served three points. Aya Kusumoto served the final four points as the Lady Sharks closed it out.
Weeki Wachee, though, regained momentum in the second. Back-to-back aces by Sarah Asbury followed by another service point opened an 11-7 advantage.
With Parker serving, Ponte Vedra scored three straight to pull to within 23-22, but the Lady Hornets managed to finish out the game and even the match.
Brooke Sereda had consecutive aces for the hosts early in the third, and Weeki Wachee led 12-8. Yet the Lady Hornets managed just two points off their own serve the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Savannah Fowler’s seven-point service turn put the Lady Sharks on top to stay, 18-14.
Asbury served four points at the start of the fourth to give Weeki Wachee a 5-1 edge. It didn’t last long. Four points with Fowler serving put the Lady Sharks comfortably ahead, 21-14.
Morris had five of her 10 kills in that last set. Emily Waud was the best hitter for the visitors over the first two games and finished with nine kills and 18 digs. Fowler had 32 assists, libero Eve Beech added 18 digs and Kusumoto recorded three blocks.
“It was on our serve-receive. They attacked at our weak spots. They executed very well,” Werkmeister said. “The girls didn’t recoup from that.
“The girls were still hanging in there tough, but it comes down to younger players. It’s just the lack of mental toughness that ended up getting some of our players. Yes, is Ponte Vedra a good team? Yes, they are, but we are also a good team. If everything would have worked in our favor, I think we could have won five matches. I wish Ponte Vedra good luck for states (semifinal) for Saturday and going from there.”
Seniors playing in their final prep match, Miranda Werkmeister posted 16 kills, 18 digs and two blocks, while Asbury dished out 32 assists to go with four aces.
While there may have been some disappointment for the Lady Hornets, considering they entered the postseason as a third seed in their district another run to the Elite Eight didn’t seem like a letdown.
“Yes we’ve got the four seniors leaving, but the core of our team is still going to be here for next year and we’re just going to build from there,” Coach Werkmeister said. “We’ll just keep on building and hopefully make another step next year, just hopefully get over this hump that we’re at. But can’t complain for this season.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.