Prep Volleyball 2016: Lely rallies to win 6A regional semifinal over Tarpon Springs

Patrick Riley
patrick.riley@naplesnews.com; 239-263-4825
Jill Foster, #3, of Tarpon Springs blocks a hit from her opponent Emmanuelle Meurgue, #7, of Lely in a Class 5A regional semifinal volleyball match at Lely High School on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016.

With their season on the brink, down two sets to none to a red-hot Tarpon Springs team in the Class 6A regional semifinal, Lely High School volleyball coach Christina Haire had some words for her Trojans.

“I wasn’t nice to them that’s for sure,” Haire said. “Because they weren’t playing their game of volleyball. You know, they were playing someone else’s, and it definitely wasn’t ours. So it was a little yelling motivation at that point. But it was the realization – like I said – the realization that this could all be over. You know, those that aren’t going to be playing in college that could possibly be their last game forever.”

The Lely Trojans celebrate after scoring a point in the Class 5A regional semifinal volleyball match at Lely High School on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016.

And so the same Trojans team that had found itself in a hole early in the first set – down 6-0 – and was outscored 15-6 to close out the second set, clawed its way back into the game and won the final three sets against the Spongers, 25-21, 25-20, 21-19. The match started at 5 p.m. because the football team was playing for the district title nearby at 7.

Lely will take on Tampa-Robinson on Tuesday, which beat Sebring 3-1 Friday, in a grudge match for the Trojans. Last year, Lely, which has lost three straight regional finals, was swept by the Knights on the Trojans’ home court.

Friday, after his Spongers took the first two sets (25-20, 25-16), Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed saw the “hibernating” Trojans come to life in the third set.

“I saw a team in Lely that was like a hibernating bear the first two games,” he said. “They didn’t seem very awake on the court and I told them Game 3, I said they’re going to come out because they know it’s the end of the season for them if they can’t handle it, if they can’t win. And, sure enough, I knew Game 3 would be like the toughest one to get through. But then we kind of woke up -- we poked the bear and it woke up.”

The crucial third set remained close throughout with neither team pulling away, before the Trojans went on the attack with their two senior leaders Emmanuelle Meurgue and captain Katie Moss combining for nine kills. Moss led the Trojans with 22 kills through all five sets, followed by Meurgue with 16.

“It just shows how strong our team can be,” Moss said. “Off the court we might not all be best friends and we’re OK with that, but on the court we are family. And I think that’s what makes the difference with our team.”

For Moss, it was the Trojans’ defensive effort that lifted the team out of its early 0-2 hole.

“We just had an amazing defense,” she said. “(Libero) Kayla Pieri had an amazing game. Really pulled together toward the end.”

Fittingly, Friday’s dramatic regional semifinal in front of a raucous crowd featured more suspense toward the tail end of the final set when referees overturned a call that would have ended the Trojans' season.

“They were calling a double on Morgan (Broxson) thinking that she hit the ball,” Moss said. “But she didn’t.”

With the Trojans’ season once again hanging by a thread, referees huddled before overturning the original call, allowing the Trojans to rally back and put the set and the game away with three straight points.

“This season has been a lot about overcoming obstacles on and off the court, overcoming the adversity and, man, did they do that tonight,” Haire said. “They really did. I’m very proud of them.”