Coach Ettie Singleton and her resilient girls volleyball team are one match away from the school’s first appearance in the State Final Four.
They got there on Tuesday night with a dominating performance, defeating Valrico Bloomingdale in a Regional Semifinal in straight sets, 25-21, 25-15, 25-15. It was St. Cloud’s (21-4) fourth consecutive post-season victory and puts them in the Class 6A, Region 3 final against state-power Winter Springs (18-10).
Winter Springs, the top seed in the region, got to the finals via a 25-20, 25-18, 25-16 straight-set win over Strawberry Crest. As top seed, they will host the Regional Final against the Lady Bulldogs Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m.
“Winter Springs is a tradition-rich program and certainly are no strangers to the post season,” Singleton said. “They have a state championship on their resume and will present a great challenge for our team. Obviously we would have liked to have had that regional championship at home, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. We’re going to continue to take this one match at a time.”
Singleton noted that although the teams have not faced off this year, the opponent is not a totally unknown factor.
“A lot of our players have played with and against their players at the club level. We will go into that game with a pretty good idea of what they are going to try to do.”
But for at least a day, Singleton said her team would enjoy the accomplishment of winning a regional semifinal game that the victory against Bloomingdale brought them.
“They (Bloomingdale) were a really good team that was peaking at the right time. I was mainly concerned about their service game. They have a couple of excellent servers who can run off four or five points in a row. I felt we had to neutralize that aspect and make sure the points would be contested at the net, where I felt we had the advantage. For the most part we accomplished that,” Singleton said. “With each postseason win, we are reaching new heights. I am proud of what these young women have accomplished.”
St. Cloud jumped out to a lead in Game 1, but Bloomingdale closed the gap at 22-21 and came close to tying it but a great dig in the back row by Yeishlanie Reyes led to a point and St. Cloud would serve out the game of a 25-21 win and a 1-0 lead.
From there, St. Cloud would dominate the second set. Trailing 5-6, the Lady Bulldogs would go on a 8-0 run and would cruise to a 25-15 win.
“Volleyball is sometimes a game of mistakes and although we played well in the second set, I thought they made some unforced errors and got out of sync with their offense,” Singleton noted.
The third game went back-and-forth and was tied at 11, before the Bulldogs took control with a 9-3 run. Outside hitter Kaylee Tutor (3 blocks) and middle hitter Eno Inyang (2 kills) led the rally with Inyang also finishing the game off with a kill and a block at the net to end the match.
Perhaps the most impressive part of St. Cloud’s run is Singleton’s team features a lone senior in Abbie Tutor. “We’re young but I don’t think we ever feel intimidated,” Singleton said. “Every time you advance, you know you are going to be facing a tougher opponent. But we look at that as a challenge.”