Making its first Final Four appearance since 2013, the Baker School volleyball team (20-10) fell to seven-time reigning state champion Sneads (20-10) on Saturday, 25-16, 25-15, 25-13.
BAKER — Sneads. Why did it have to be Sneads?
Baker’s longtime nemesis on the volleyball court, the Pirates made sure history repeated itself for the fifth straight year, bouncing the Gators from the postseason with a 25-16, 25-15, 25-13 sweep in Saturday’s 1A Final Four matchup in Baker.
“I felt like we didn’t play our game,” Baker coach Kathy Combest said. “They’re a good team. You have to come prepared every time. I felt like we were prepared, but you never know what they’re gonna do when they come in.”
Winners of seven straight state championships, Sneads (20-10 overall) came in hot, opening the first set on a 7-0 run and never looking back. Senior captain Jordyn Riano spearheaded the barrage an ace and three serves that bounced off Gator defenders for points.
Making its first Final Four appearance since 2013, Baker (20-10) managed to cut the deficit to five late in the set but the damage was done, the Gators surrendering 13 errors. Against a team like Sneads, Combest said a team should surrender no more than six free points.
Baker fared slightly better in the second set, scoring five of the last eight points on kills from Stella Hurley, Lauren Adams and Kailyn Ellis, but again the rally came too late.
Baker took its first lead of the afternoon in the third set, opening 1-0 after the Pirates failed to return the opening serve, and kept the score at a tight 10-8 deficit through the first 18 points, but Sneads managed to pull away again, scoring seven straight down the stretch to take a 23-11 advantage.
With the victory, Sneads will play Newberry for the 1A title on Friday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers with the chance to tie the FHSAA record for most consecutive championships.
Baker will have to stay home.
In now five straight postseason meetings, the Pirates have won all 15 sets they have played against the Gators, often using their superior size to simply outmuscle rural Baker.
It’s frustrating, Combest said, considering the Gators spent much of their regular season playing teams in higher classifications to prepare themselves.
“I am proud,” she said. “I just knew we played big teams this year — and those were our only losses, really — just to get ready for them.
“But I’ll just keep working. I got one more year.”