SEBRING - Though it was just a preseason game, the intensity between Lake Placid and Avon Park on the volleyball court has not waned during the offseason.
Lake Placid rebounded from a 16-25 loss in the first set to win the next three sets by scores of 25-17, 25-17, 25-20 in the first round of the Sebring Volleyball PreSeason Classic.
There have been some changes for Avon Park and Lake Placid. First, they moved from Class 4A-District 10 to Class 4A-District 9, which means that last year's district champion, DeSoto, is gone and Frostproof, McKeel Academy and Mulberry are now in their district.
Secondly, both teams are sporting new head coaches. Lake Placid's Linette Wells resigned after last season and Avon Park's Coach Stephanie Devlin also resigned.
In their place is Charlotte Bauder and Shane Wirries. Bauder is taking over the head coaching position at Lake Placid and Wirries at Avon Park.
Despite the changes, one thing that has not fluctuated is the rivalry between the two teams as Avon Park pulled away late is the first set. With the score tied at 13, Avon Park went on an 8-1 run to take a 21-14 lead and cruised to a 25-16 victory.
The second set was all Lake Placid as it jumped out to an 8-1 lead. Avon Park closed the gap to 11-8, but the Green Dragons extended their lead to 22-12 on their way to a second set 25-17 win.
The third set had both teams going back and forth early as Avon Park led 8-7 and gave themselves some breathing room at 12-7.
Lake Placid fought back to tie the third set at 14. With Avon Park leading 17-15, Lake Placid went on a 10-point run for the 25-17 win.
The fourth set was close as Lake Placid led 12-7, but saw that lead disappear when Avon Park tied the set at 14 and took a lead at 18-16.
Lake Placid rallied to score 9 of the next 11 points to beat Avon Park 25-20 and win the match 3 games to 1.
Asked after the game what the biggest difference between coaching JV and coaching varsity, Avon Park Head Coach Shane Wirries responded that it "moves a little faster. Most of these I have coached in JV and middle school, so I have worked with them already, so it was not a big transition."
Wirries added that they are going through an adjustment period and are down to nine girls.
"We lost three girls in the last couple of weeks." Wirries noted, "One moved, one had a medical problem and one is not currently eligible. They are still checking her grades and she might have a chance."
Even though this is their first match during the school year, Wirries inserted that they had played Lake Placid during the summer program held at South Florida State College.
"We went 7-1," said Wirries, "our only loss coming to Lake Placid. We had a better record, but we lost to them so I knew this was going to be a challenge tonight."
Bauder, Lake Placid's new coach, spent seven years as assistant coach to Kim Crawford at South Florida State College then coached at Sebring Middle School last year.
"This is a big deal for me going back home," said Bauder, "I have a great team, I have a lot of leaders coming back (5 seniors), everybody on the team was on varsity last year plus one transfer from Sebring."
Bauder stated that she learned a lot from Crawford and that she was a mentor to her and someone she looks up to.
"She was a great player and is a great coach," said Bauder. "From whom I have learned to be a leader and a positive role model. She taught me a lot about the game, we are like sisters. She even brought her girls here tonight for support and watched the match."
As for the rivalry, both coaches added that they know and like each other and wanted to be positive role models about growing the game of volleyball.
"Obviously, it is about being competitive," said Bauder. "But we will teach our kids sportsmanship, we will teach our kids that yes you want to win, but you have to be a sportsman and that is something that Shane and I talked about before the game. I'm happy that he is there. He is a great coach and easy to get along with."
"I think it's going to come down to us and Lake Placid for the district," Wirries said. "It was back and forth all night in close games, it's going to be a fun rivalry."
With the loss, Avon Park with play Frostproof, which lost in straight sets to Sebring in the first match on Tuesday.
Tonight's first match between Avon Park and Frostproof begins at 6 p.m. Sebring takes on Lake Placid at 7:30 p.m.