PORT CHARLOTTE — The L.A. Ainger Middle School volleyball team has reached a plateau it hasn’t seen in many years.

The Cougars defeated the host Port Charlotte Terriers 19-25, 25-17, 15-13 Thursday, and clinched the second seed for the Charlotte County playoffs, which are set for Jan.19 at Lemon Bay High School.

“We haven’t made the second seed since I’ve been here and I started in 2010,” said L.A. Ainger coach Marla Lanham. “This was a big win for us.”

L.A. Ainger, 3-2 on the season, had to rally for the victory, but defeated the Terriers handily in two sets (25-9, 15-13) in the first match between the teams. After falling behind 21-17 in the first set Thursday, the Cougars almost came back but fell just short. Port Charlotte was putting the ball where the Cougars couldn’t get to it.

The Cougars righted the ship in the second set, trailing only once at 4-3 and leading 19-17 late. They then scored six straight points to take the set victory. The third and final set was a cliffhanger all the way.

The hosts (2-3) jumped to a 4-0 lead early, but the Cougars started getting to the ball quicker and not letting it drop. L.A. Ainger led 12-9, but the Terriers scored three straight points to tie the game at 12-12. The teams then traded points for a 13-13 score, but the Cougars got the next two for the victory.

Sierra Blaney got a dig off off Jayda Lanham’s serve for the final point.

“Jayda led the team in passing and Lilly Abbott led in assists,” coach Lanham said. “Maddie Googins and Sierra led the team in kills. It was a good team effort.”

“The first time we played them (the Cougars) we didn’t set or spiking well,” said Port Charlotte coach Melea Kumming. “This time we did and it was a lot closer.”

The regular season wraps up Thursday. The Cougars will host Murdock and the Terriers will play first-place Punta Gorda. In the county playoffs next Saturday, the Cougars probably will play the Terriers again and Punta Gorda will take on Murdock. L.A. Ainger beat Murdock the first time and loss to Punta Gorda both times.

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