By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — With the match on the line, North Port High School coach Adrienne Moreno turned to five girls playing in the final home match of their careers.
It was senior night for the Bobcats, and after they forced a fifth set against DeSoto County, it was going to be up to Samantha Tennant, Michaela Magnapera, Raychel Sipe, Summer Fisher and Lindsey Miller to get a win in the regular season finale.
“I think it meant a lot to them,” Moreno said. “It was the last home game, and I’m sure it felt really awesome to finish that game.”
They just barely came through, squeaking out a two-point victory in the final set, after going down 0-2 to the Bulldogs in the first two games, ending the night 16-25, 24-26, 25-16, 25-17, 15-13.
“It was everything, and a perfect ending to our senior year,” Tennant said. “Oh my gosh. We held out hope, and we’re really good at doing that. We showed perseverance, and we gave everything we had, and pushed until that very last point.”
The seniors combined for 24 kills, 55 digs and four blocks. Tennant accounted for 11 of those kills, Magnapera and Sipe each had 20 digs, and Fisher had three blocks.
“They mean a lot,” Moreno said. “We’re definitely going to miss them. They’re all strong players, have great attitudes, and bring great energy to the court.”
A pair of juniors, though, were huge difference-makers on offense. Alexis Francavilla and Lindsey Matthews took over the fourth set, as they refused to let their seniors lose.
The first six points of the set for North Port were single-handedly scored by Francavilla, as she had four kills and two aces. She ended the night with a match-high 19 kills.
Matthews also had four kills in that set, all of which seemingly came in crucial situations. She ended the night with six digs, seven kills and three blocks, after having zeroes across the stat sheet through the first two sets.
The Bobcats led for nearly the entire second game before the Bulldogs came roaring back late in the set. North Port once held a 19-11 lead, but a 7-0 run on the serve of Malyssa Jeter brought the game to 19-18 in favor of the Bobcats.
“Sometime they kind of just expect to win,” Moreno said. “And when they expect to win they maybe slack off a little bit. I’ve got to stay on them to keep working hard.”
DeSoto took its first lead on an ace from Stephanie Whitmore to go up 25-24, and then closed it out on the next point.
Jeter’s serves were key all night for the Bulldogs, as she had a match-high seven aces. She totaled eight kills and 17 digs on the night. Zakaria Burroughs had a team-high nine kills, and Hannah Lambright led DeSoto with 19 digs.