- November 6, 2019
While many eyes are glued to what’s happening on the football field, all of the fall sports are going full bore into postseason mode — which includes district tournaments and regionals.
For some schools there was disappointment abound, but for a handful of others, district titles and playoff spots were clinched over the last week or two.
Fewer match-ups were bigger — and more anticipated — than the Class 7A, District 5 volleyball final between Windermere and Dr. Phillips Thursday, Oct. 17.
Going into that game, both teams had only faced off once during the regular season — a game that saw the Panthers best the Wolverines in a 3-1 win at Windermere.
To say that loss — one of only two for the Wolverines (25-2) — stung is a bit of an understatement, Wolverines Head Coach Layla West said.
“Losing to DP was a big eye opener for us during the regular season, and it was one of our first losses,” West said. “We knew going into that match playing DP at DP, it was something that not only did we have to prepare for physically, but mentally as well, because DP brings that crowd.”
With Windermere being the No. 1 seed, the Wolverines got to take advantage of a new system where they enjoyed a bye in the quarterfinals before going on to beat fifth-seeded Cypress Creek 3-0. Meanwhile, the No. 3-seeded Panthers had to knock off No. 6 Tohopekaliga and No. 2 Lake Nona — the latter being a test for the Panthers, who traded jabs with the Lions before winning in the fifth set.
In the championship game, things started off rough for the Panthers as they took a shot to the chin early and fell 25-19 in the first set.
“It was tough for us, but it kind of shook us and kind of put us in that mindset, ‘We don’t want to be here — we don’t want to lose the next three sets,’” West said. “I’m really impressed with our girls and our performance to make sure that didn’t happen.”
The wakeup call sounded, and the Panthers went on to take the next three sets 25-19, 25-15 and 25-14 to seal up the district title.
Taylor Head once again proved a threat as she recorded 25 kills and 17 digs, while Cassidy Chambers recorded 14 kills and 13 digs. For the Panthers, Olivia Osuna racked up 50 assists, while Alicia Virtue had 15 kills and 24 digs.
Both teams will face big challenges in the regional quarterfinals of the 7A state tournament, as No. 3 Windermere hosts No. 6 Lake Nona and No. 8 Dr. Phillips travels to No. 1 Riverview Sarasota. Both games took place Wednesday, Oct. 23, after press time.
Fewer teams have more to live up to than the Windermere Prep boys golf team.
Last season, the Lakers stormed their way to bringing home the 2018 Class 1A boys state title, and this year, Head Coach Kyle McClone is hoping for a repeat after winning the 1A, District 8 title by a whopping 66 shots (team total of 275; 13 under par) Monday, Oct. 14.
“I think the kids had a good game plan on how to play the course and they obviously executed the plan really well,” McClone said. “The golf course was in fantastic shape, so to play on greens that are perfect to where you hit a good putt and you know it’s going into the hole, that’s really exciting for them..”
No one took advantage of the course at The Country Club of Winter Haven more than senior Hiroshi Tai, who shot a scorching 64 (8-under-par) for the Lakers. Meanwhile, teammates Tiago Barni (69), Camden Smith (71) and Kenny Nguyen (71) all finished under par. McClone’s alternate David Wu — whose score didn’t count — shot a 75.
While winning has become a bit of the norm over at Windermere Prep for McClone and his program, this year’s team is different than previous years, McClone said. Instead of having a bunch of seniors, this year Tai is the lone 12th grader.
“Over the past years we’ve had two to three seniors on the team and some juniors, but this is probably the youngest group that we have had,” McClone said. “To see them really mature and step up and continue to get better throughout the years has been really fun.”
The next step for Windermere Prep will be a brutal Class 1A, Region 2 tournament at Providence Golf Club against some of the best teams in the state — including powerhouses in The First Academy, Lake Mary Prep and Circle Christian.
“Four out of the top five teams are probably in our area,” McClone said. “We have our work cut out for us.”