SEBRING - Don't call it a comeback.
After falling to Lake Placid in its opening match of the volleyball Preseason Classic, Avon Park rebounded to knock off Frostproof by a score of 3-1 at Sebring High School on Thursday night.
"The preseason is a good time to see how everyone is playing. It's a good opportunity to see what they'll do in a game-time situation," said Avon Park coach Shane Wirries. "And the one thing I see that we need to work on is consistency."
Despite losing the second set by a score of 21-25, the Red Devils rallied to win the match rather easily by scores of 25-15, 25-4, 25-23.
The first set started off slowly, with each team battling to a 3-3 standstill. But thanks to a few Frostproof miscues, Avon Park bolted out to a 12-6 lead. The Red Devils had another big run to extend their lead to 21-11 before closing out the Bulldogs.
In the second set, the Bulldogs streaked out to a 5-1 lead after a handful of vicious spikes from Rakaya Neely. After a time out and some words of encouragement from coach Wirries, Avon Park tied up the score at 10. It was back and forth from there, but tied at 20, two more kills from Neely gave Frostproof the lead and the Bulldogs held on for their only win of the evening.
But despite tying the match, the Bulldogs' victory only served to spark the Red Devils' wrath, as they unleashed a 25-4 thrashing to take the upper hand, 2-1.
"We jumped out there and beat them easily, and then we turn around and lose one, and then we beat them real bad in the third set, it just goes to show how it's a mental thing," Wirries said.
In what would be the final set, Avon Park held on to win by two points in a thriller that went down to the wire.
From the outset, the set had all the makings of another lopsided win for Avon Park, as the Red Devils jumped out to an early 5-1 lead. But Frostproof dug in and clawed back to make it 9-8 before Wirries decided he needed another time out.
Both teams traded scores until a handful of Frostproof errors gave Avon Park the lead. It was enough breathing room to let the Red Devils' stellar play at the net resume, as Brianna Rogue and Marina Torres clinched the match with a myriad touch shots and kills. The pair finished the night with a combined 14 kills.
"Once they start messing up, they try and overcorrect on their mistakes sometimes," Wirries said. "They're so worried about making a mistake, that they're not following through on their shots."
Ending the preseason with a 1-1 record, Wirries said he is optimistic about the upcoming season, even despite losing a few quality players.
"The ability is there," he said. "We're trying to adjust after losing three girls. We started with 12 and are down to nine right now, but I've got 13 on the junior varsity - and they're good - but I'd like my sophomores to get some more playing time and not just have them sit on the bench."
"We still have some pretty good height. And we'll move some positions around, because I want to make sure, with nine girls, if someone gets hurt, we make sure we're covered," Wirries added.
The Red Devils will open the regular season on the road on Thursday at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven. The junior varsity match starts at 6 p.m. and the varsity will follow at 7 p.m.