BARTRAM TRAIL – With a remarkable 13 total errors; digs and services, the Fleming Island High volleyball team propelled themselves to the region 1-8A championship game for the first time with a 3-0 …
BARTRAM TRAIL – With a remarkable 13 total errors; digs and services, the Fleming Island High volleyball team propelled themselves to the region 1-8A championship game for the first time with a 3-0 blowout region semifinal win over district rival Bartram Trail High School on Wed., Oct. 30 at Bartram Trail High School.
“This is one of the grittiest bunch of athletes on one team that I have had to coach,” said Fleming Island coach Amy Walker. “The whole team was hitting on all cylinders. I haven’t seen that team since our conference win over Nease.”
With the three straight game wins; 25-12, 25-16 and 25-12, Fleming Island never gave the Lady Bears, who beat the Golden Eagles twice this season; in regular season play and for the district 4-8A title 10 days ago, a chance to catch their breath or to surmount any kind of response to the full-frontal attack bestowed upon them.
“It was really weird that I envisioned this scenario; us coming up short at districts (lost to Bartram Trail) and then having to bounce back,” said Walker. “I kind of thought the girls would have the mental advantage because we have been trading off wins and losses to them all season. We had really good practices this week and for the week before Fletcher.”
Against Fletcher, the region opener, Fleming Island showcased a bit of what was coming to Bartram Trail with a 3-0 win.
Fleming Island (25-3) continues into the region 1-8A championship game against Tallahassee Leon (26-3), a semifinal 3-1 winner over Tallahassee Chiles in a rematch of the district 3-8A final won 3-0 by Leon. Leon beat Tate High 3-0 in their region opener.
Leon, 8A runnerup in 2017 to Venice High and 7A Final Four loser to Tampa Plant in 2015 and 2016, owns a Class 6A title from 2011 and a 159-65 record since 2011.
Fleming Island, under Walker since 2015, has failed to make the region playoffs with semifinal losses to Buchholz and twice Bartram Trail in district tournaments. Walker, while with Orange Park until 2014, has playoff experience up to the region semifinals with a 6A region semifinal loss to Leon in 2011 and a 6A region semifinal loss to Buchholz in 2008. Walker coached Orange Park to region playoffs six times from 2007-2012.
In game one against Bartram Trail, Fleming Island rifled off to a quick 12-8 advantage behind Maya Walker and Jillian Jackon who sent monster spikes to the Bartram Trail defense that were blocked to the floor on the Lady Bears side of the court.
Behind a strong string of serves from Kailey DePaula who put down five scoring strikes from the backline that Bartram Trail’s defense could not send back.
“We went back to basics and purpose in the past week’s practice,” said Walker. “We had a bunch of mental errors in past games and I wanted to eliminate those mistakes.”
Up 17-10 and anticipating a rush to the finish, Fleming Island rallied behind a set of misdirected feeds to Rayna Durden that drew the Bartram Trail defense, but let Walker go one-on-one with successive strikes to the 25-12 win.
“They wanted to double on me and we kind of baited them,” said Durden, who finished with 13 scoring shots. “Maya had a great game and made them stretch to cover both of us.”
Game two stayed close to 6-6 before Fleming Island ran away with four Durden blasts that ignited the Eagle defense and put the score at 14-9 with Bartram Trail looking bewildered on defense.
“We were reading their rotation and saw where they were going and it let us get into our blocks quicker,” said Durden.
Another set of service receiver errors by Bartram Trail, off serves from Lyara Rosario pushed the score to 18-11 with little action on top of the net before a double block from Durden and Madison Mas preempted two final thunderbolts from Durden to score the game 25-16.
“They were so amped up after game two that I had to remind them to focus and finish,” said Walker. “I didn’t want their minds to slip and let them back into the match.”
Game three again started with a 5-5 tie erupting to a 13-9 deficit behind Walker and Jackson taking control above the net. A huge round of hits from Jasmine Robinson was a momentum driver with Jackson putting the game at 24-17 before a net serve by Bartram Trail ended the match.