TAMPA -- Kat Bradshaw wiped away a tear and managed a smile.
The lone senior on Bayshore's volleyball team, Bradshaw played the final game of her prep career Tuesday when the Bruins were swept by Tampa Robinson in a Class 5A-Region 3 semifinal.
But there was pride mixed in with all that sadness -- no Bayshore volleyball team had reached the second round of the region tournament since 1987.
Consequently, Bradshaw, and the rest of the Bruins, felt bittersweet while leaving Robinson's gymnasium.
"Throughout the year, we just got together and we got along," said Bradshaw, who had three kills and a block. "So we came in as one. We weren't six people on the court -- we were just one person on the court."
Ending the ride were the Knights (13-11), who used a series of runs to roll into Saturday afternoon's Region 3 championship match. They closed Game 1 with 12 straight points to clinch a 25-9 victory and scored 13 of the final 20 points to in a 25-14 win in Game 2.
A kill by JoJo Muldoon brought Bayshore (12-12) to within 8-4 in Game 3 before the Knights' nine-point rally helped salt away a 25-8 win.
"That's a very good team we played. It was a very
well-disciplined team, they played excellent ball and our hats are off to that team," said Bruins coach Ralph McElhiney. "For us, we're a very young team with one senior on our team. ... Our plan is to be right back here next year -- in the regional semifinals and win the regional semifinals."
McElhiney and his coaches held court with the Bruins for roughly 10 minutes after the match, praising the players while reminding them what it takes to get to the next level.
That includes working harder over the summer, and the team hopes to compete in a national high school tournament in Orlando.
The trick is, McElhiney said, finding the time: Most of his players participate in a number of other sports, such as basketball, soccer and softball.
"We want to take just kind of a chunk out of that summer," McElhiney said, "and raise money, travel and play at nationals and see what we can do. That would give us just a good mark for the summer and get us going.
"We see what we have to do. The heart of these girls ... they want to get back. They'll work to get back here."
Joy Norman had four kills and Kristen Fleury had 14 assists and nine digs. Both are juniors and Muldoon is a sophomore, giving Bayshore plenty of hope for the future.
Bradshaw, however, was still savoring this year.
"We all put our hearts on the table and on the court," she said. "We have trust in each other, we have faith in each other. If one's not there, the other one is. We always help each other up and we're always there for each other."