Entering Tuesday night’s county showdown with Gainesville High in Alachua, Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall was worried about how his team would play.
Due to Hurricane Ian, the Raiders only practiced once since the previous Tuesday.
Santa Fe was supposed to play on Oct. 4 but didn’t, and they didn’t practice over the weekend like most teams did.
Marshall wanted to give his team the time off because he was concerned some of his girls might have family that they needed to be with.
“I struggled with that a little bit yesterday (Monday) because we looked terrible in practice,” he said. “We were awful, but they assured me they’d be ready to go.”
Fret not, as the Class 4A No. 1 Raiders never trailed in a 25-15, 25-13, 25-18 sweep of the Hurricanes in a match-up of state-ranked teams.
“Our coaching staff was paying close attention to set one because set one is where you’re going to see that rust,” Marshall said. “To come out like we did, I knew we were OK. I knew they were focused.”
It didn’t take long for the host Raiders to set the tone.
Reigning Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball Jalyn Stout began the match with a kill on the right side and it sparked the Raiders (14-1) early as they took a 16-4 lead in the opening set following a kill by senior Camille Johnson.
Stout, who led Santa Fe with 17 kills, finished with five kills in the double-digit win.
In the second set, the junior, who added 11 digs and two blocks, gave her team an early 1-0 lead that it would never relinquish. She had six kills, a block, and an ace in the 25-13 win in the second set.
Junior Gracie Hardacre (13 service points, five aces) had three aces in a 5-0 run in the second set, and in the third set, with Santa Fe up by only two, 10-8, she had two aces in a 4-0 run to extend the lead to 14-8.
“She’s got a wicked serve,” Marshall said. “When she gets on a roll it’s flat, it’s fast, it’s hard to pass. She got on a roll tonight. She was huge. Serving and serve receive is the key to winning volleyball games.”
Senior Miya Thomas led the Raiders with 18 digs.
“I thought Miya played extremely well,” Marshall said. “She picked up all the balls because they hit a lot of off-speed stuff. She read every single ball. She picked every ball up.”
Senior Anisa Dorlouis led the defending 4A state champion Raiders with 16 assists and added nine digs, six service points and three kills. Junior Olivia Beavers added nine service points and three aces.
GHS did rally in the opening set with six straight points to make it 16-10. However, the Raiders called timeout and proceeded to score seven of the next eight points for a 23-11 lead.
“For our team to be successful, our defense is what’s going to win us games,” said Gainesville coach Chancie Vice, whose Hurricanes (17-6) are ranked No. 7 in the state in 6A. “Tonight, our defense was a bit nervous. We’re a very young team. I think we were a bit intimidated by the caliber of offense that Santa Fe presents with.”
Junior Meme Davis led Gainesville with eight kills and 17 digs, while sophomore Chloe Petrik led the ‘Canes with 16 assists.
Freshman Addy Hauptman and sophomore Rere Davis added 10 digs apiece.
Santa Fe will host Vanguard (Ocala) at 7 p.m. on Thursday for Senior Night.
Meanwhile, Gainesville’s Senior Night game against city rival Buchholz has been moved again. The Bobcats will play the Hurricanes at The Purple Palace on Monday, Oct. 10, at 6:30 p.m.
The game had originally been moved to Friday due to Hurricane Ian.
GHS has been able to continue winning this year despite losing USC commit Brooklyn Tealer, Ta’Niya Walker, Madison Howard, and Ava King to season-ending injuries. Three of the four were starters.
Vice said the key has been “tuning up our young girls really quick.”
“At least they’re getting experience right away,” she said. “My libero is a freshman, my setter is a sophomore, running a 5-1 so they’re getting that experience and having to step up the mental game of it as well and I’ve been reiterating that our defense is what’s going to take us far in districts.”