Simmons-led Blue Wave sweep Bobcats
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 10:49 p.m.
For P.K. Yonge volleyball’s lone senior Kayla Simmons, it was very special Thursday night inside the Blue Wave gymnasium.
Classmates, friends and family packed inside to celebrate her accomplishments as a four-year starter before their match with Buchholz. Then Simmons and the Blue Wave did what they have done 13 times previously.
They swept their opponent.
Jac’cara Walker had 16 kills, 18 digs and five aces, and Simmons had six kills, 12 assists and seven digs as P.K. Yonge fought off Buchholz in three competitive sets — 25-18, 25-23, 25-18.
The victory closed the regular season for the Blue Wave (24-1), ranked No. 21 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 1 in Class 4A. P.K. Yonge has won 18 straight matches heading into Tuesday’s District 5-4A tournament at Santa Fe.
“It has been a long time since a team here has had that type of regular season,” said Blue Wave first-year coach Chad Davis. “To go 24-1 with the competition we played is pretty incredible. But now it is time to get serious. This is what we have been working really hard for. We will be ready on Tuesday. I promise you that.”
The Bobcats (18-7), who lost to P.K. Yonge in their gym 3-1, would rally just when the Blue Wave looked like they were going to seize control in sets. The difference was P.K. Yonge closed stronger, winning the final three points in Set 1 and final two points in Set 2, when it was tied at 23-23.
“It was close all the way through,” Davis said. “I felt a couple of times we were close to delivering the knockout shot, but you have to give them credit. They (Buchholz) dug in and battled back and made us earn it.”
On Tuesday, the Blue Wave pulled out a five-set home win over Ocala Forest, clinching it at 15-11 in the fifth.
“This was really special to me, because on Tuesday we didn’t play as well as I know as we could have,” Simmons said. “Yesterday we worked really hard in practice and ran a lot.
“Today I was proud of how we came out strong, and we just did what we were supposed to do. Everyone work really hard. I am so happy with my team and the effort they gave.”
As P.K. Yonge was streaking along, winning the Winter Park/Lake Highland tournament and beating teams like defending 7A state champion Venice on the road, its notoriety grew. That really started in the second game of the season when the Blue Wave upset nationally ranked Berkeley Prep in Tampa.
“I think because of their record, the target is increasing on their back,” Davis said. “We are getting everybody’s best shot.”
Sophomore Gabby O’Connell had 11 kills, Sammy Mueller 20 assists and seventh-grade libero Jai Mueller had nine digs and 11 service points.
The Bobcats, down one set, rallied in the second. Down 22-15, Buchholz scored eight of the next nine points, getting back-to-back kills from Kelly Collins and Julie Fuchs and a nice tip score from Keesia Hagley to tie the set at 23-all. But after Davis’s second timeout in the set, the Blue Wave responded, winning the next two points for the set.
“That second set we made some crucial, self-inflicted errors,” Jacque Robinson Huggins. “It just didn’t work out in our favor. I’m not upset. Nobody expected us to put any points on the board. I’m very proud of my girls for not backing down. P.K. is a very good team, and I wish them all the luck in districts and on their run for state. They found our weakness and picked at it.”
Fuchs had 10 kills, eight digs, two blocks and one ace for Buchholz while Collins had six kills, 10 digs and one block. The Bobcats will travel to Orange Park Fleming Island for the District 3-7A tournament as the top seed, opening Tuesday against Atlantic Coast.
In the final week of the regular season, the Bobcats were swept by both St. Francis and the Blue Wave.
“It was scheduled that way for a reason because you want to play your toughest opponents before you start district tournament play,” Robinson Huggins said. “It is great preparation for us. I actually think that tonight is going to help us.”