By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
CAPE CORAL — Tuesday’s match against Island Coast was more a tune-up than anything for Lemon Bay.
With a road match against North Fort Myers for second place in the district on the docket Wednesday night, the Manta Rays were looking to build some momentum with a win all while ending a three-match skid.
They did just that.
Haylee Layne led the Manta Rays with seven kills and six digs — both team highs — and Lemon Bay swept Island Coast 25-18, 25-10, 25-14 in a District 10-7A contest on the road.
“Once we settled down, we pretty much took over,” Lemon bay coach Pat Auer said. “I put people in different positions and tried some different things. We have a freshman setter we brought up from JV, Hannah [Krzysiak], and she got the winning set there. Sometimes the girls can be off but they all played really good. I was very happy with them and very proud of them.”
Krzysiak was one of three Manta Rays to finish with four kills along with Breanna Nelson and Maggie McGraw. Caroline Hill finished with six kills, and could’ve had more, but Auer sat the sophomore the entire third set as he tried to work other girls into the match to gain some experience.
“Caroline is my middle and didn’t even play the third game,” Auer said. “I just let her sit out and everybody got to play so there were a lot of smiles.”
The Manta Rays (10-11, 4-1) shrugged off a slow start in the first set, which saw a few hitting errors that allowed the Gators (5-12, 0-5) to hang in the frame. Island Coast gave Lemon Bay all it could ask for in the opening set, taking a 12-11 lead before the Manta Rays woke up to score three straight points an take the lead for good.
Hill was instrumental in the first game, recording three of her kills and two aces in the set.
Lemon Bay played much better in the second, only trailing 4-3 early. After taking an 8-6 advantage, the Manta Rays went on an 8-0 spurt, which included three kills by Layne, to take control of the set.
While Hill owned the first set, Layne owned the second and Lemon Bay never trailed in the third as girls subbed in and out of the match. That balance is just a characteristic of Auer’s squad.
“That’s what I like about us,” Auer said.
Still, Auer wants to see his team come out of the gate stronger if it expects to beat North Fort Myers.
“I think we needed a little upbeat because they know tomorrow is going to be a tough game,” Auer said. “When we played them at the Estero tournament we beat them 2-0 but I know tomorrow we’re going to be at their house so we’re going to have to play our game. If we don’t play our game, we’re not going to win.”