AVON PARK — Thursday’s contest between the Hardee Wildcats and Avon Park Red Devils was a match of runs. Unfortuntely for the Red Devils, it was Hardee who had the last one, rallying for a 15-11 victory in the fifth game of the match to take a 3-2 victory.
“I told the girls I had no problem with the loss,” said Avon Park coach Shane Wirries. They’re a good team; they won their preseason tournament and they played pretty good.”
The Red Devils started the match out slowly and were behihnd 17-10 before working their way back into things. A service ace by Imani Tate and a kill by Otisha Smith pulled Avon Park within one, 22-21, but it was Hardee which held on for a 25-23 victory.
The second game started even worse for the Red Devils, with the Wildcats racing out to a 7-0 lead, but the Red Devils went on a 17-7 run to storm in front by a 17-14 score. After Hardee trimmed the lead to 20-18, the Red Devils used kills by Krystal Rivera, Keuanna Robinson and Aaliya Eastburn to fuel a game-ending 5-0 run and take the 25-18 victory.
The Red Devils led the third game 13-9, only to see Hardee come back for its second 25-23 win of the match.
Avon Park ran away with the fourth game, jumping out to a quick 19-10 lead and coasting to a 25-13 victory.
it looked like the Red Devils’ momentum was going to carry them to the fifth-game victory, as they grabbed an early 7-3 advantage, but the Wildcats scored seven of the next eight points and never trailed again.
“I’m not upset,” Wirries said. “We fought hard and Hardee fought for every point.”
Smith finished the match with 12 kills, seven aces and six blocks; Tate had 17 digs and 11 kills; Kashaundra Martel had 25 digs and 10 assists; Robinson had 10 kills; Rivera had 56 digs; and Eastburn finished with 63 assists and 25 digs.
“We’ve been moving some setters around and Aalyiah set tonight and did a real good job,” Wirries said. “It was Aalyiah’s first night setting and she really helped us. When we get that figured out, things will solify and we’ll be good.”
Wirries said the team has the hitters, such as Smith, Tate and Robinson, to do some damage during the season.
“When they hit, nobody can stay with them,” he said. “We figured out some things and we’re getting into a rhythm.”
The Red Devils had a solid night from the service line, with few errors and a number of aces.
The Red Devils will host Lake Placid on Tuesday and Wirries was looking forward to the rematch after the Green Dragons defeated Avon Park in Sebring’s Preseason Classic.
“They’re going to be wanting us and we’re going to be wanting them,” Wirries said. “In the preseason tournament we were ahead of them two or three times and let them come back. We played better tonight than we were playing last week, so it will be interesting to see.”