LUTZ- In a back and forth, hard fought outing, the Steinbrenner Warriors (22-5) prevailed over the Durant Cougars (19-9) in straight set scores of 25-15, 25-21 and 25-23. The difference however between this playoff game and any other however is that Durant came to Steinbrenner looking for revenge after losing to Steinbrenner in this exact same position 3-0.
“I thought we did a great job overcoming being down early on, throughout the second set in particular,” said head Steinbrenner coach Laura Praetorius. “We really stayed in control on our side of the net and not worrying about making any mistakes but instead making a play which helped us with our mentality.”
The Warriors started out the night in a very back and forth first set which led to a 14-14 tie until momentum-building kills by seniors outside hitter Avery Bradshaw and middle blocker Lauren Heldt helped spark a 11-1 run to take home the first set. Bradshaw and Heldt had 28 total kills on the night. But Durant retaliated with vengeance as the Cougars started off the second set on a 15-14 run in an alternating duel. After a timeout by Durant with the score being 20-18, Steinbrenner, senior defensive specialist Peyton Fitch landed a game changing ace which set the tone for a late push by the Warriors to help take the second set 25-21.
“When Durant called that timeout we went over our mistakes and we all decided we needed to pick up the pace in order to win,” said senior outside hitter Taylor Perez. “Peyton’s ace really set the pace we needed and we took the momentum we gained off that ace to push us through the second set to pick up the win.”
The third set became a set of who was going to make the first mistake. In yet another alternating set, Durant would strike with an assertive force while the Warriors would strike back with a counter force. A key stretch was played when Bradshaw had three straight kills to tie up the game at 9-9. After more pressure was brought on by Durant, the Warriors ended up pulling away in the end with a Heldt kill giving the Warriors a 25-23 third set win sending the Cougars home for the second year in a row.
“It is a great feeling to beat one of our regional rivals a second year in a row,” said Heldt. “It was a great feeling last year and not letting them win this year feels just as great.”
The Warriors hope to carry their momentum from their big win into the regional finals in Lake Nona on November 8 at 2 pm.