A thunderous crowd roared throughout the Barron Collier gymnasium Tuesday night.
Filling every seat, an even mix of Pirate and Cougar faithful pounded the wooden bleachers beneath their feet, making it hard to speak with those sitting around you.
But even with what felt like a home crowd at times at its back, Port Charlotte couldn’t pull off the comeback, falling 3-1 to the Lady Cougars in the regional volleyball finals for the second consecutive year.
“They fought,” Port Charlotte coach Kevin Krause said. “We were just off tonight. Our passing, our serving, our setting, it was off today. It’s just disappointing, you know. We worked so hard this season, but I’m proud of them. We just had bigger goals.”
Barron Collier, who knocked the Lady Pirates out 3-0 last season, proved frustrating for Port Charlotte.
When the Lady Cougars needed a block, they got it. When they had to get a bounce to go their way, they did. Even when a ball seemed untouchable, they seemed to always find a way to keep it in play.
“It was (frustrating),” Krause said. “They played great. I just think we were a little off today. I give a lot of credit to them, they played great.”
The first set introduced the theme of the night with a long, nail-biting back-and-forth.
After the Lady Pirates jumped to a 7-3 lead, the largest lead stretched to just three as the Lady Pirates battled their way to a 25-20 win thanks to three kills by sophomore Azvah Dailey and two aces by sophomore Laticia Nina to end on a 7-0 run.
Dailey led the team with 16 kills.
In the second set, Barron Collier held more control, but it still came down to the wire. Holding an 18-17 lead, the Lady Cougars were able to secure 6 of the final 10 points to win 21-25 and swing the momentum back in their favor.
Barron Collier rode that momentum and won the third set handily 25-16.
But the Lady Pirates’ heads didn’t drop.
The largest lead of the fourth set was three and it came on the match’s final point.
Facing a 24-20 deficit with the season on the line, Port Charlotte gave one last push, scoring two points before the Lady Cougars killed the ball for the match-sealing point.