BRADENTON -- Saint Stephen's put together a heroic comeback Wednesday night, but couldn't quite finish and saw its volleyball season end in heartbreaking fashion to visiting Clearwater Calvary Christian in a Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal match.
The Falcons trailed in the fifth game 12-9 before rallying to tie it at 13. They fought off two match points until the Warriors took advantage of their two power hitters and got two straight kills for a 17-15 victory.
The Falcons dropped the first two games (12-25 and 21-25) and trailed in the third game 19-11 before they roared back to take games 3 and 4 25-22 and 25-13.
The Falcons committed three service errors in the final game, which put them in a hole. But as they did all night, they managed to climb back.
"My skin was crawling when we made those service errors, but then when we rallied back to 13 and 14 and 15 and at that point I had no reason to not believe we wouldn't win," Saint Stephen's head coach Shameka Waker said. "I thought it was anybody's match and anybody's season. I never stopped believing in them. We had the momentum going into the fifth game, but after those service errors their chins started to drop towards their chests. Serves are the only thing you can one-hundred per
cent control and you want to get it in and work out the rest."
Saint Stephen's, which finished at 22-6, had trouble all night with Calvary Christian senior Rachel Mostert, who has committed to Florida Southern.
The 6-foot-2 Mostert, who at one time was leading the state in kills, finished with 15 kills, four aces, four blocks and 15 digs. The Warriors' other 6-footer, senior Katie Vollmer, had 16 kills.
With the scored tied at 8 in the final game, Mostert had six kills, including the game-winner, to spark the triumph for Calvary Christian (20-8).
"Our defense shifted appropriately to defend her, and I thought we did it well, but that last set she really rallied and they found her," Walker said.
Saint Stephen's struggled in the first game and couldn't get its offense going as it missed numerous return opportunities. The Falcons trailed 21-15 in game two when they started to find their offense and improve their setting with a rally, but fell short.
They started slow again in the third game and trailed 19-11 when everything started to come together. They got big shots from Tori Biach, who finished her career with 28 kills, 22 digs, six blocks and four aces.
"In third game I told them they had to open their heart and find what inspired them and to play for their school, their teammates and their community. When we rallied back I was shocked myself and I thought just take it one game at a time," Walker said.
Melissa Johnson also had a big game for Saint Stephens with 19 kills, 31 digs and seven aces while Natalie Marciniak had 61 assists.
"We had nothing to lose and went into the third game giving our all and it worked for us," Johnson said. "In the first two games we were just not connecting. We might have gotten a little scared. In the last game we couldn't just pull it through."
Biach had 21 of her kills in the final three games and Johnson recorded 17 kills in the final three games. The Falcons slowed down Mostert in games three and four, but couldn't keep her under wraps.
"When they won games 3 and 4, I think we kind of stopped playing with each other and made some mistakes," Mostert said. "We looked each other in the eye and focused on one point at a time. This is first time we've been to the regions."