West Orange volleyball season comes to an end | Observer Preps
Despite a loss to Oviedo in the Class 9A regional final, the Warriors had another successful season on the court.
| 10:45 a.m. November 14, 2018
Few programs have dominated in volleyball quite like West Orange and Oviedo, so it’s no surprise that the Class 9A regional final Tuesday, Nov. 6, at West Orange would be a slugfest.
Unfortunately for the No. 3-seeded Warriors (22-7, 2-0), their time in the playoffs ran out as they fell in a 3-1 loss (25-12, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18) to the No. 2-seeded Lions (26-4, 4-0) in a rivalry that has been building for the last three years.
“It’s a battle of two good teams, and unfortunately, just one can win,” said Warriors head coach Roberto Santasofia. “It was a good match; I just don’t think we played our best. And like I’ve said before, when you play teams like that, you have to play your best.”
The matchup has become a staple of postseason play in the state — the Warriors have faced off against the Lions at some point during the playoffs over the last few years.
In 2016, the Warriors fell in the regional final to the eventual state champs, while last year, the Warriors met and defeated the Lions to win the state title.
For the program’s four seniors — Mackenzie Hyatt, Caroline Grant, Torey Baum and Kaeli Crews — Tuesday’s game was the last time they will dress in the orange and blue of WOHS.
“Torey Baum — she was our libero this season — what a great player,” Santasofia said. “She’s going to play Division 1. The other (starter) was Kaeli Crews — Crews was phenomenal this year. She took over and was a great leader.”
If it’s any consolation for his team, since last Tuesday, Oviedo has marched on to the state championship game, where they will take on Palm Beach Gardens Friday, Nov. 16.
Looking at the season as a whole, the Warriors built their success on adversity.
The Warriors jumped on opponents quickly and often as they pounced to a 12-0 start that saw them drop only five sets out of 35. In fact, the Warriors did not drop a single set until their fifth game of the season against Wekiva.
But about halfway through the season, the Warriors hit a rough patch during a seven-game stint at the Nike Tournament of Champions out in Phoenix, Arizona. During the two-day tournament, the Warriors picked up only two wins and went 2-7.
“That tournament helped us,” Santasofia said. “You need to lose some in order for you to learn and get better — that was part of the process.”
The Warriors finished their year winning eight of 10 games — including the district tournament and the playoffs.
A large part of that success came from the production of a number of players who have been the team’s biggest assets. Attacking-wise, few players go hard at the net quite like junior Taylor Head — whose 360 kills is a team best. Head also accounts for a team best in aces (44), as well as second best in blocks (20) and digs (354).
The Warriors also had outstanding play from Crews (296 kills, 174 digs), Italia Bollo (200 digs, 166 assists, 22 aces) and Baum (360 digs) who, along with the rest of the team, helped make the Warriors a dominating force throughout the year.
Although some Santasofia’s big-name players are graduating, the first-year head coach said there still are players to watch. With such a talented roster, the main objective now for Santasofia and the team is to keep learning.
“Our team goals are always to improve and get better and do better than what we did last season,” Santasofia said. “Every day counts. What you do extra counts. That’s the mentality.”