CRESTVIEW – It was the kind of pivotal moment where great teams rise to the occasion.
Struggling with its serve and not displaying the free-flowing communication or crisp passes up to the standards of Coach Jill Benson, Niceville was staring down a 14-9, third-set deficit to Crestview after splitting the first two sets.
However, as perennial powerhouses do, Niceville answered the call of greatness.
The Eagles (9-9, 4-0) reeled off 11 straight points en route a 25-23 win, setting the tone for a dominant 25-17, fourth-set victory to close out a come-from-behind District 2-6A triumph On Tuesday over the Bulldogs (6-6, 2-2).
“Our serving came around there and the girls played more relaxed,” Benson said. “They know a lot of people up here and were just tentative early on. They just needed some time to pick it up and they did.”
The comeback was far from a one-woman show.
Portia Rodgers dished a out a team-high 38 assists, Kayla Carr pounded out a team-best 21 kills, Jennifer Smith added 11 kills and Tess Morken served up four aces for the Eagles, who also got seven kills from Breana Rodriguez. At the forefront of the third-set comeback was the big-hitting duo of Carr and Smith along with Kimy Sarra, whose serve provided multiple free balls during the 11-0 run.
Carr had four kills during the spurt and then Smith, who ended the set with an ace, provided four kills in the final 10 points.
“She’s a fiery kid,” Benson said of Smith. “She likes to compete, she’s always talking and she did a great job of turning it around for out team there. And Kayla Carr, she kind of got into her rhythm and figured out what she can and can’t do. Then she just went from there.”
Paired with a couple of kills from Rodriguez, the duo added three kills apiece in a commanding 25-14 win to close out the match.
The dominant finish overshadowed a slow start for the Eagles, who committed seven errors on serve in the opening set. Meanwhile the Bulldogs used back-to-back of kills from Malia Gandy, a kill from Jasmine Middelton and a Molly Woodward ace to cap off a 5-0 run to end the opener with a 25-18 win.
“We let the ball drop without effort and I swear we hit every ball out there for awhile,” Benson said.
But the Eagles responded with a dicey 25-23 win, capitalizing on a Rodriguez kill and a Rodgers ace to take knot the set tally.