By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — When things weren’t going the right way for Charlotte in Thursday’s District 10-7A championship match against North Fort Myers, Jessica Moore took it upon herself to settle down her team.
The Tarpons were trailing 14-8 in the second set, and Moore turned around to her teammates, clapping and trying to pump them up. Whatever she said worked because Charlotte came back to win the set and used the momentum to roll in the third for a sweep of the Red Knights (25-10, 25-22, 25-15) and a second straight district title.
“Just the built up anxiousness of getting this game done,” an emotional Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “We came out so strong the first game, and then the second two we kind of struggled. I don’t know if we got a little rattled, but our offense was off.
Emily Vaughn’s kill that cut the visitor’s lead in the second set to 15-10 was the turning point. The booming kill sparked a Tarpons run that eventually them even at 17-17 on Shelby Beisner’s kill.
North Fort Myers regained the lead at 22-21, but Kaitlyn Chavarria’s kill gave the Tarpons the lead for good at 23-22. The set ended on Ashley Landry’s ace.
“Ashley Landry did a good job serving us back into it,” Dill said. “I think we just got rattled. We just weren’t in our regular system and in control. It was just getting back into rhythm.
Moore had 10 digs in that set, a stat she typically doesn’t dominate. The Red Knights had a clear game plan: Attack Moore and force someone else to set up the Charlotte kills.
The plan failed as Moore ended the night with 19 digs while still getting her assists, leading the team with 32.
“They wanted to get us out of our system,” Moore said. “We managed to stick with it. When I had to pass it. My teammates had a perfect set.
Even with the nice statistical night, her biggest impact was likely with her on-court leadership ability.
“It’s important to encourage your team.” Moore said. “ If you’re the encouraging one, or the happy one, just you could make everyone else happy just by saying good job or giving them a pat on the back.”
Charlotte wasn’t out of the woods just yet in the third set. The Red Knights led 10-6 at one point, but the Tarpons came roaring back. Vaughn’s kill tied the set at 13-13 and started a run of six straight points that included Kaylee Brannon’s service ace and a block from Michelle Bunch block continued what ended up being a 6-0 run.
Beisner was instrumental all night long, but especially in the third set. Five of her match-high 14 kills came in the final game. She also had a team-high 21 digs.
Vaughn ended the night with eight kills, Bunch had seven kills and two blocks, and Skylar Gribben had six kills to go with 13 digs. Brannon had a team-high three aces with 18 digs.