St. Thomas Aquinas Sweeps George Jenkins Out of Volleyball State Semifinal
Wed. November 14, 2012 at 2:00 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
By SOLANGE REYNER
KISSIMMEE | Amanda Thiele, George Jenkins' junior setter, talked Monday about how pushing the go button when the team was up late in a game would be the difference in the FHSAA high school state volleyball tournament.
It was the difference, just not for the Eagles.
Jenkins fought hard to make up for miscues late, but fell 25-27, 21-25, 17-25 in a Class 7A state semifinal match Tuesday at Silver Spurs Arena before about 400 fans.
St. Thomas Aquinas moves on to play Venice in the state finals at 7 tonight. Venice beat F.W. Buchholz, 20-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-19, 15-10, to advance.
"We struggled a little bit with our fire and intensity but we didn't give up," Jenkins coach Lisa Bickerton said, her hands stretched around Thiele and senior Kayla Monsanto after the match in the interview room.
"We were down big, even in the third, and they kept busting their butts."
Jenkins could have shifted momentum in its favor in the first game had it held on to a 19-14 lead, but three errors on kill attempts let St. Thomas Aquinas get back into it and big hits by Nikki Lyons sealed the comeback to give the Raiders the first game.
"It's a problem that we have, taking a little break when we're up, but we shouldn't have let that effect us," Thiele said.
Jenkins didn't in the regional final match against Lake Minneola, when it rallied from one game down to win 3-1 and advance to states for the first time in 16 years.
"The nerves happened last time, too, in the first game," Monsanto said.
This time, though, Jenkins wasn't able to shake it off, evident in the 20 errors the squad had in its attack game.
"That's not typical of who we are and how we play," senior libero Britney Powell, a first-year player, said.
But Jenkins kept picking away in the second and third game despite being down most of the time.
Monsanto, who finished with 14 kills and 19 digs, tied it at 13-all after pushing a ball through two blockers on the left side and, after two kills and four errors by St. Thomas, Jenkins took a 17-16 lead.
Then sophomore Jessie Scarpa tipped a ball over for a point and Nikki McKown, who had 11 kills and six digs, converted on two kill attempts to put the team up 19-17.
That's when Lyons turned it on again.
She had a tip and two kills down the stretch to help St. Thomas Aquinas outscore Jenkins 7-2 the rest of the way, with Jennifer Truzzolino blocking Monsanto's kill attempt for the game-winner.
"They're a great team and they managed to hit around us and their sets were really fast," said Powell, who finished with 11 digs.
"Maybe we got a little confused as to where to put our blocks but we're a lot better than what we showed tonight. We just had an off night."
Jenkins started out the third ahead 3-1 behind two kills by Monsanto and a tip by Kaitlin Boyd, a junior who was playing with a broken toe. She finished with two kills and one dig.
That lead quickly vanished when St. Thomas started powering up its offense again and Jenkins made more errors to dig itself into a hole.
The closest Jenkins got was within one, 15-16, when Monsanto converted on a kill attempt. The Raiders quickly pulled away behind Brooke Lyons, a six-footer like her sister Nikki, and Allison Belanger.
"We were able to stay offensive and in transition get kills," St. Thomas Aquinas coach Lisa Zielinski said.
Nikki Lyons had 18 kills on 44 attempts for St. Thomas and Brooke added 10 on 22 attempts.
Belanger added seven kills and nine digs for the Raiders while Ana Pedraza led the team in digs with 27.
Jenkins proved to be quick and deft on defense, skills Aquinas had not seen much of this season.
"They were a faster team than any we had seen in our district, for sure," Belanger said.
Added Nikki Lyons: "They had better shots and ball placement."
That's in large part to how well Thiele managed the game. She finished with 29 assists for Jenkins, the lone team to make it to states from Polk County.
"Sometimes you just have an off day and today maybe we needed a little bit more luck. At the end of the day, though, I'm just so proud that we got here," Bickerton said.