Cardinal Mooney advances past Calvary Christian in straight sets.
This one was supposed to be more difficult.
Calvary Christian (26-3) was ranked eighth overall among the state's girls volleyball teams and third in Class 3A by the Florida High School Athletic Association. Cardinal Mooney (20-10) was ranked 11th and sixth, respectively, and the Cougars had to travel to Clearwater for the regional final match on Nov. 5.
It turned out to be nothing more than another sweep. The Cougars took the first game 25-22, then held Calvary under 20 points in both remaining games (25-19, 25-10). After being tied at 12 in the first game, the Cougars cruised to victory.
Junior Mary Page, who had 13 kills and 18 digs, led the way. Cougars coach Chad Sutton was effusive in his praise for Page after the match, calling out not just her stats but her hustle as outstanding. Mooney senior Sophia Hritz added seven kills and 14 digs, while junior Ashley "Skye" Ekes had eight kills and six blocks.
"I am proud of our kids," Sutton said. "The biggest thing was game prep. They prepared and worked hard. Right now, they are consistently making the choice to be great. We know where we need to be, and we are starting to get there."
Sutton said the team's experience level has allowed it to mentally move one game at a time. There's no looking ahead to grand possibilities. On Nov. 5, the focus was 100% on Calvary Christian, and it showed.
The Cougars will next face Trinity Catholic (23-6), the program that beat them in the state championship match in 2018, at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Ocala. Trinity Catholic is ranked seventh in the state and second in Class 3A, but the Cougars won an Oct. 5 matchup between the two teams, 2-1.
Sutton said his team is looking forward to the game and hoping to get even more payback for last season.