ARCADIA — Her name is Janna Morrissey and DeSoto County knew very well what the LaBelle standout could do on the volleyball court.
The Bulldogs suffered at her expense last month during the Gene Gorman tournament at Charlotte High. In Thursday’s Class 4A-District 8 championship match, the senior Cowgirls hitter got her kills, but it was her work at the service line that proved too much for the Bulldogs.
LaBelle took DeSoto County’s best shot and prevailed 22-25, 25-22, 25-18 and 25-15, thanks in large part to a lethal turn by Morrissey in the final set.
Morrissey, who entered the match with 245 kills on the season, rotated to serve with the Bulldogs holding an early 4-2 advantage in the fourth set. When she was finished, LaBelle led 15-4.
“We knew about her after the (Gene Gorman) game,” DeSoto County coach Dave Bremer said. “We slowed her down some and we knew right where she was going to serve but … that was brutal.”
Morrissey tallied five aces, including three in a row during the 13-0 spree. From there, twin junior sisters Hannah and Haley Boone combined with Dylann White to trade points with the Bulldogs and cruise to victory.
“From the service line, she really took over,” LaBelle coach Lori Perkins said. “And our middles have really come along strong this season. Hannah had a big night offensively, then her twin sister had a big night blocking.”
The rough finish overshadowed a strong start. Riding a wave of emotion and energy, DeSoto County put LaBelle on its heels as it turned a 5-0 deficit into a 21-11 lead and the eventual first set win.
Fayth Rackewedge, Taylor Shaver, Hannah Jones and Raegen Hancock each took turns hitting through and over the Cowgirls’ blocks.
Midway through the second, though, things began to fall apart for the Bulldogs as their passing faltered and LaBelle’s blocking improved.
“We kind of reversed roles,” Bremer said. “(LaBelle) was having trouble passing in the first set and a half and we fell into that for the last two and a half sets.”
DeSoto County fell to 12-9 with the loss, but the season continues next Thursday in the first round of the Class 4A regionals at Academy of Holy Names in Tampa.
“Too many times, they went on a run and you can’t do that in a championship match,” Bremer said.
LaBelle (12-9) will play host to Tarpon Springs.