With the volleyball regular season winding down, the strategy is to be prepared physically and mentally going into the postseason.
Out-of-Door coach Stefanie Betz set up her schedule to play some of the tougher teams in more intense atmospheres to prepare her Thunder.
In the final Class 3A-District 5 match of the season, Out-of-Door made a strong impression in both areas with a 3-0 sweep of Bradenton Christian, 25-14, 25-10, 25-20, Tuesday night at the Petrik Thunderdome.
The match was for second place and the second seed in the district behind first-place Sarasota Christian, whose players were in attendance Tuesday night.
“We definitely wanted to be able to play here,” Betz said of a postseason matchup with the Panthers.
Building on the momentum of finishing fourth out of eight teams at the Northside Christian Tournament this past weekend in St. Petersburg, Out-of-Door (9-6, 4-1 in 3A-5) set the tone for the evening by scoring the first five points of the match.
“We ended the day with everybody talking, communicating and the energy was great,” Betz said of the Thunder play in the tournament. “The defense we played was amazing and the attacking game was amazing. We just want to keep that rolling through the next couple of weeks.”
Out-of-Door used a 14-0 run in the middle of the second set to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Bradenton Christian (14-5, 3-2 in 3A-5) did not take its first lead of the match until in the third set when it went up 2-1. The most competitive set of the night saw nine ties and three lead changes before the Thunder took control at the end. The Panthers never had more than a one-point lead in the match.
“We have a really talented team, but our challenge is to have our mental game match our physical abilities,” Betz said. “They did it tonight, and I’m proud of them.”
Sophomore Sophie Fedder led the way with 10 kills and five digs. Senior Mackenzie Condrack dug 24 balls and added an ace. Junior BreAnn Brown contributed with 16 digs, six kills and four aces.
“It was great. We had kids running all over the place,” Betz said of the Thunder defense.
Panthers coach Andrea Kneser shuffled her lineup at the outset in an attempt to throw off Out-of-Door.
“I didn’t stick to what we typically play,” she said.
While Bradenton Christian has played and defeated some big-time teams, it has struggled with the top two teams in the district.
“When you look across the net and see Sarasota Christian and ODA — our big rivals — it is a big mental game,” Kneser said. “It’s coming down in our division to the mentally tough teams. Who is going to eliminate their errors and who is going to keep the ball alive. That’s something Stefanie’s team did tonight.”
A Panthers’ roster of eight, with one battling illness, was no match for the Thunder on this night.
“We have mental training all the time,” Kneser said. “When it comes to the end of the season, when you have a small team of eight, they’re tired. But they’ve got to work through that tiredness, because we have goals we want to achieve.”
Senior setter Emily Eurice dished off 19 assists. Junior libero Mckenzie James had 20 digs. Senior Bailey Sikkema added 13 digs. Freshman Emma Laade ended with 11 kills.
“We’ve had a strong season. It hasn’t affected us, except for the Sarasota Christian and this game,” Kneser said of the short roster.