BRADENTON -- Cardinal Mooney's volleyball team spent the weekend at a tournament in Clearwater, seemingly rallying from behind every match to wind up with a third-place finish.
Ideal? No. But rising above such challenges helps build character in a young team, said Cougars coach Kristin Batt.
So do matches like the one Mooney played Tuesday, when the Cougars knocked off Saint Stephen's 3-1. The Cougars rebounded from a tough loss in Game 3 and staved off a Falcons rally in Game 4 to improve to 4-3 overall and 2-0 in Class 3A-District 10.
"We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the court, and we're just trying to get our rhythm," Batt said, "and I feel like every single game they step on the court, they're improving and playing better as a team."
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Mooney showed moxie in the first game, rallying from a 15-11 deficit to score a 25-22 win and was in control for most of Game 2, which the Cougars took 25-15.
What Mooney couldn't do in Game 4, however, was put away the Falcons. Done in by a number of late hitting and service errors, the Cougars fell 31-29 before toughing out a 25-23 win to clinch the match.
"We trying to work on that, too," Batt said, "coming out strong, playing well from the get-go and just playing hard."
Keri McMahon had nine kills for the Cougars.
Service errors spelled doom for the Falcons (2-7, 1-1), who committed five straight to open Game 4 and another one to arm the Cougars with a 24-22 lead.
Saint Stephen's graduated six seniors from last year's team, which won the program's second district title in three seasons. But coach Shameka Walker declined to use that as an excuse.
"We had a lot of errors, and I think that was our biggest downfall," Walker said. "That really hurt us."
Walker was pleased with effort of her team, which features just one senior: Lauren Biach, who had 12 kills, seven digs and a pair of blocks.
"They played a tough match," Walker said. "I thought we hustled really well, we played aggressive defense, and we were swinging really hard. ... I think overall, we did pretty good despite the errors."
Bryce Liebel had 20 assists, four kills and 16 digs for the Falcons.