TAMPA- The gymnasium floor shined as if a new coat of wax was just applied. The sounds of shoes squeaking and balls bouncing off the players palms during warm ups gave some indication that the match both teams have dreamed of since the beginning of their seasons was about to take place in a heated battle of non stop back and forth diving digs, mile high spikes, and powerful kills. Sickles was ready to host this years class 7A-district 8 volleyball championship, and as both teams walked onto the battlefield like court with the thundering applause you usually hear in the aftermaths of a motivational speech, each teams respective sides rose to demonstrate their school spirit as Steinbrenner and Freedom met on opposite sides of the court, gazing intensely at one another knowing exactly what was at stake. The title of best in the district and bragging rights till next years season returns.
But for Steinbrenner, the big dogs in the district since day one of the school’s opening, six years ago, backing down and showing fear was out of the question as they looked to keep an impressive streak going of never losing one set to an opposing district foe, while also claiming five consecutive district titles for their school. And now, Steinbrenner has once again rose to the challenge, taking home their sixth consecutive district title, advancing to regional play once again after a commanding 3-0 win over Freedom.
“Last time we played Freedom, they gave us a run for our money. To go out tonight and keep them low in their score feels important,” said Steinbrenner head coach Laura Praetorius. “It’s exciting. The team has put a lot of work in and with nine seniors, for them to have that experience, and for them to achieve that, I think they are extremely pleased,” she said referring to the seniors on the team winning a district title each of the years they were on the team.
Interestingly enough, Freedom each set, won the first point suggesting maybe this one might turn out differently from the last. However, Steinbrenner wasn’t a team to give false hope as they quickly rose to the occasion taking every opportunity to pound spike after spike, kill after kill, and point after point upon the frustrated Patriots. To Steinbrenner, the first strike in each set was of no importance, because all they cared about was what would come next. And it was with that soldier like mentality that the Warriors paced themselves to a 25-12, 25-6, and 25-11 dominating victory over the Patriots. Senior Avery Bradshaw, a Saint Leo commit, had nine kills with senior Air Force Academy commit Lauren Heldt, having the first and third set ending kills.
“It’s a lot of pride. Every year gaining another title is just phenomenal. You just want to keep building and that means going farther and farther every year during playoffs,” said Heldt.
And Steinbrenner isn’t done yet as they will try and continue their success and start a new tradition as they will again, go through the regional playoffs hoping to make it to the state finals, somewhere they have come so close to attending, but only tasting the sweet nectar of victory, never actually consuming it in entirety. Both teams in Thursday’s event will move on to the next round of play on Wednesday. Their opponents are still being determined based on how the other victors from their respective districts perform.
“Elated [referring to her state of mind after the game]. It’s something that is really exciting to me and winning a district title every year is something that make me very happy,” said Bradshaw. “We played more to our potential tonight.”
Evan Abramson/Online Sports Editor
To find out the schedule and opponents, check in with the Oracle’s twitter page found @SHSOracleNews or with myself @Evan_Abramson. Previews and game stats will be posted as the regional tournament continues throughout the month of November. For information on rules, locations, and how the bracket works, you can visit FHSAA.com and search for your team and their bracket location.