The Cougars had too many hitting errors to beat Calvary Christian on Tuesday, but the match can be a learning moment
It's only been a month or so since Cardinal Mooney High volleyball coach Chad Davis said he wanted his team to be challenged early in the season.
That's why he scheduled the team's first 11 matches on the road. That stretch is now over, finishing it 8-3.
But the team went just 3-2 at the highly-touted Berkeley Prep Invitational, held Sept. 17-18.
Finally returning home on Tuesday, the Cougars were welcomed with another stiff test against Calvary Christian (12-3), one of the teams that bested them at the Berkeley Prep Invitational. The atmosphere was rocking, but Calvary Christian, ranked No. 6 in Florida by MaxPreps, served the 28th-ranked Cougars a three-set loss. It was a sight the Cougar faithful were not accustomed to seeing; Mooney had not been swept at home since Sept. 7, 2019, against Lake Highland Prep.
Davis said his team had too many hitting errors to beat an elite team like Calvary Christian.
"We're practicing those areas," Davis said. "It's just, unfortunately, we don't always execute them in games. That clearly has to get better. It's disappointing. These are things we work on and we're just not executing right now. That falls on me to do a better job as a coach."
Davis said despite the recent losses that he's happy with how the team has responded to the early schedule. The Cougars, who have just one senior in libero Kat Moore, have gained necessary experience. Even though Mooney wishes it could have a few matches back, the tough games will help them down the line. That's why, even though the program does end the season with a run of home games, it still won't be easy.
"This (Calvary Christian) is one of the toughest teams in the state to start our home schedule with," Davis said. "We got exactly what we wanted out of it, which was getting challenged. We were hoping for a different result but we have to accept that part of it. And we'll line it back up. We play Braden River on (Sept. 21) and it gets even more challenging from there."
There's a silver lining in the loss to Calvary Christian. In 2019, the Cougars took that home sweep against Lake Highland Prep and learned from it, eventually winning the Class 5A state championship in five sets against Bishop McLaughlin Catholic. It's possible that this year's Cougars follow the same path. They still have Jordyn Byrd, a junior who was a freshman on the state championship team. Byrd is averaging 4.9 kills and 3.2 digs per set. Byrd and junior Madeline Carson (3.2 kills per set) have become a formidable attack in conjunction with sophomore setter Helena Hebda (11.2 assists per set) and others.
If the Cougars can iron out their hitting errors, they should once again be a force in Class 5A, and their road to the postseason will have them prepared to face whoever in in their way.
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