HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

St. Francis outlasts P.K. Yonge in five sets


Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 12:06 a.m.

A month ago, Nick Cheronis didn't believe his St. Francis Wolves played well as the host in their first meeting with District 3-3A rival P.K. Yonge.

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P.K. Yonge's Jordyn Saulsberry (8) watches after hitting the ball to see if St. Francis' Kathryn Herrington (11) will block it during a match at the PK Yonge gym in Gainesville on Monday. The Wolves of St. Francis beat the Blue Wave 3-2.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

That wasn't the case Monday in a rematch at the Blue Wave gym.

Allison Benton and Kathryn Herrington had 19 and 13 kills, respectively, and Ann Lorrayne Bzoch had 32 digs as St. Francis outlasted P.K. Yonge in five sets — 25-27, 25-19, 25-18, 25-27, 17-15.

It was the Wolves' first win over the Blue Wave since 2010, going 0-4 a year ago, which included the district final and regional semifinal. Since falling 3-0 to P.K. Yonge on Sept. 18, St. Francis has won eight straight matches.

“We felt like when we played them the first time, we just didn't play them well,” said Cheronis, whose team improved to 18-3 overall and 8-1 in the district. “I felt if we could play well, we could at least compete with them. We did that tonight.”

The Wolves, which dressed 14 players, also used depth to their advantage, substituting constantly throughout the match. Meanwhile P.K. Yonge's bench consisted of two players, with standouts Jordyn Saulsberry, Jac'cara Walker and Kayla Simmons playing the entire match without substitution.

“Having depth makes things a little easier as a coach,” said Blue Wave first-year coach Nirelle Hampton. “When you don't have those options it puts more pressure on the girls on the court to perform. It could have been a little bit of fatigue.”

The match was tight throughout and the fifth set, which went 15 points, was no different. There were 14 ties and both sides had a chance to win the match earlier, St. Francis at 14-13 and P.K. Yonge at 15-14. But each time, the opponent persevered.

But at 15-15, the Wolves ended it after consecutive kills from Herrington and Paige Stockman to capture the match.

Benton, a junior, had an outstanding night, coming up with critical kills throughout. The deeper the match went, the more confident St. Francis played.

“It is very exciting and it proves to us that we can beat them because last year when we played them we went 0-4,” Benton said. “So it was nice to come here and win a tight one in their gym.

“I think nerves got the best of us last time, and we didn't play well that game. I give them a lot of credit for that.”

Benton had a run of three kills and a block to close the first set, but it wasn't enough as consecutive kills from Kiki Sermons and Saulsberry clinched a 27-25 P.K. Yonge win.

In the second game, there were 16 ties, the last at 19-19, before the Wolves seized control, scoring the final six points with Bzoch serving a pair of aces in the process, for a 25-19 win.

St. Francis closed strong again in Game 3, breaking from a 15-15 tie, and scoring eight of the final 10 points, again getting great serving, this time from Shannon Richards, for a 25-18 win.

The Wolves had an opportunity to end the match in the fourth game, up 25-24 and serving for the match. But the Blue Wave battled back and Kayla Simmons' kill gave P.K. Yonge a narrow 27-25 win, forcing a decisive fifth game.

“They played great defense, and we didn't have anyone to step up tonight at the crucial times,” Hampton said. “We had some great plays and people stepping up, just not when we needed it.”

Saulsberry finished with 19 kills and 22 digs, while Walker had 22 kills and 16 digs and Simmons had 44 assists and 16 digs to pace P.K. Yonge (12-8, 6-1 in district).

Cheronis was pleased with the play of Benton, but said it took a team effort to beat a quality opponent like P.K. Yonge.

“She does it all for us, she is back row, front row, kills balls, she plays with a high volleyball IQ,” said Cheronis, whose team handed 6A No. 1 Ocala Vanguard its only loss of the season. “She is really a big piece of what we do. But let's make no mistake, we had to be the better team to beat a talented team like P.K. Yonge. One person was not going to do it. We had to all pull together. They are a great team.”

These two district rivals could likely see each other two more times this season — in the district tournament final and in the regional semifinals. Benton believes finally beating their rivals will only add to their confidence.

“We are definitely very confident,” she said. “We have another road game this week and we play two very good teams next week before districts. So it is good to get our confidence up.

“I think we have the potential to go really far. If we keep playing the way we are playing.”

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