FORT WALTON BEACH – Class 1A volleyball power Baker continued its warm up for another run deep into the state tournament later this month with an impressive 3-1 win over Class 6A Choctawhatchee on Monday.
The Gators won by scores of 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 25-20 and avenged a loss earlier in the season to the Indians.
Baker coach Tomikko Parks said winning the match wasn’t as much about getting even with Choctaw as it was for her team to play well down the home stretch of the season.
“It wasn’t about avenging anything,” she said. “We just wanted to play well. We are coming down to the end of the season and it’s important that we are playing well at this time of the year.
“We don’t want to take any backwards steps and we want to make sure we are playing well going into the playoffs.”
In a match that was as close throughout the night as the set scores indicate neither team could pull away and dominate the other.
The Indians (4-9) had an early advantage in the first set jumping to an early 4-1 lead before the Gators (17-2) pulled even at 5-5.
A point by Shannon McDonald gave Choctaw a 10-7 lead, but a serving error by the Indians gave the Gators a point and a Haley Wagner block pulled Baker to within a point at 10-9. The Gators eventually took a 3-point lead at 16-13 before Choctaw came back and moved in front 20-19, but a 6-1 run by Baker closed out the set and put the Gators up 1-0.
The second set followed a similar pattern to the first one only the Gators were the team leading much of the set.
A kill by Choctaw’s Heather Young tied the set at 13-13. Baker’s Hartley Moate answered Young’s kill with one of her onw to put Baker back in front for good in the set as the Gators pulled away down the stretch to go up 2-0 in the match.
The Indians fell behind 4-0 early in set three before coming back strong behind the play of Taylor Campbell, Alyssa Labare and Kayce Johnson to take the set.
Choctaw continued to battle in the fourth set, but the Gators wouldn’t be denied.
The teams traded points early in the set before Baker took the lead at 7-6 and never trailed again.
Baker’s biggest lead of the set was 18-9 after a Katie Wickery kill was followed by two unforced errors by the Indians. Choctaw did manage to go on a late 11-7 run, but it wasn’t enough as Baker closed out the match.
Choctaw coach Nicole Adarme said she wasn’t trying to make excuses for her team, but there was a reason the Indians didn’t bring their best game.
“We had rough night tonight,” she said. “One of my starting players went to the hospital and then our setter struggled out there. I think our mindset was more on making sure our team was OK rather than being focused on the game tonight, which I’m OK with because my worry is on them.”
Wickery led the Gator attack with nine kills, nine digs and eight assists. Moate had five kills, two digs and one assist. And Savannah Risen had nine assists, five kills, five digs and one ace for the Gators.
Campbell had seven kills for the Indians and McDonald had 26 assists.