BRADENTON -- For all its pomp and circumstance, Senior Night can wreak havoc with a team's routine and concentration.
Bradenton Christian's volleyball team went toe to toe with that distraction Tuesday as well as rival Saint Stephen's in a pivotal Class 3A-District 10 match. As if that wasn't enough, the start of the match was delayed an hour because one of the officials had car trouble.
But when it was over, Panthers coach Allen James was able to smile and breathe a sigh of relief. BCS overcame all of it to defeat the Falcons 3-2 in front of packed home crowd fueled by a loud student section, which rushed the court after BCS sealed a 15-11 win in Game 5.
"This year, they've really learned to finish," said James, whose team improved to 12-9 overall and 4-3 in the district, giving BCS a good chance to clinch the second seed for the district playoffs. "Last year, we would have rolled over and played dead."
After the teams split the first two games, the Falcons (7-8, 4-4) rolled to a 25-8 win in Game 3, shushing the home crowd. But BCS overcame a 12-9 deficit in Game 4 en route to a 25-21 win to push the match to a fifth and final game.
"It was a team thing; it
wasn't just individuals. We all did our part," said BCS senior Jayme Haynes, who finished with 22 digs, 13 assists and four kills, including one that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead in a Game 5, and they never trailed.
"We did have our downs, but when we had them, we came back up. And that's what it's all about -- it's a team."
Haynes also was on the service line during a crucial stretch in Game 5, when the Falcons closed the gap to 8-6. An ace by Haynes pushed the score to 9-6, and a Falcons' hitting error pushed it to 10-6. And when Olivia McDaniel's kill bounced off Saint Stephen's side of the court, the celebration was on, and the Panthers were surrounded by a horde of their orange-clad fans.
"Our fans really support us," Haynes said. "I feel like when they have momentum, we feed off of it."
Kassandra Woodruff had 14 kills for Saint Stephen's.
Savannah Shontere had 24 digs, Kia Kern had 11 kills and Haley Waldo had 19 assists and 14 digs for the Panthers, who host the district tournament beginning Oct. 20.
It was BCS' second win of the season over the Falcons, whom the Panthers may very well see in the semifinals.
"That's a huge confidence boost for us because in years past, we've really struggled with playing Saint Stephen's," James said.
"It's kind of a big deal for us this year."