Okeechobee comes up short in playoff match

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Lady Brahman volleyball team went toe-to-toe with their rival the Jensen Beach Lady Falcons in the 5A District 12 semifinal playoff on Oct. 15.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Lady Brahman players watch as a Jensen Beach player dives to save a point.

Despite each set being close, Okeechobee fell to Jensen Beach 3-0. The win moves the Lady Falcons into the district championship and ends the Lady Brahmans’ season. Jensen won the first set 25-17, second set 25-23 and third set 25-13.

Okeechobee looked good in spurts in the playoff match, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the Lady Falcons.

After losing the first set, the Lady Brahmans came out with a little more fire in the second set. Jensen was able to put together a small run toward the end of the set to go up 24-20, one point away from winning. But following a timeout by Okeechobee coach Taylor Padrick, the Lady Brahmans were able to put together a small rally of three unanswered points to make the score 24-23 and force the Jensen Beach coach to call a timeout of his own.

After the timeout Jensen Beach was able to regain their composure and stop the Okeechobee comeback to get the 25-23 win.

The start of the third set played out in a similar fashion to the second set, with both teams trading points and going back and forth. After Okeechobee tied it up 4-4 early in the set, the Lady Falcons started finding the weak spots in the Lady Brahman defense. Jensen cruised to a 17-10 lead midway through the set.

Jensen’s defensive play proved to be the difference maker in the third and final set as Okeechobee players couldn’t put together a rally of any significance against the Lady Falcons.

The loss makes this the second year in a row Jensen Beach has been able to knock Okeechobee out of the playoffs.

Although any playoff loss is frustrating, it has to be just a little bit extra frustrating for the Lady Brahmans to fall to the Lady Falcons. Especially considering that Okeechobee played Jensen Beach well this year. Earlier in the regular season the Lady Brahmans took Jensen Beach all the way to a fifth set, and were only a few points from winning the game. To put that in perspective, the last time Okeechobee took Jensen Beach to a fifth set was back in 2010. At that time the current Lady Brahman players were still in elementary school.

In some ways the Lady Brahmans’ performance in the playoff match mirrored their performance throughout this season. They performed well in spurts, looking unstoppable at times, but couldn’t maintain that performance.

For example, newcomer to the district, Sebring, powered their way to a 17-2 regular season record this year and are ranked as one of the best teams in the state. In fact, Sebring dominated Jensen Beach when the two teams met, winning 3-0.

But one of those two losses Sebring had came when they faced Okeechobee. The Lady Brahmans shut out the powerhouse Sebring team 3-0 back on Sept. 12.

Obviously the talent and skill levels are there for the Lady Brahmans. When things are clicking for the team, they’re hard to stop. If they can maintain that level of play from game to game, they could be competing in and winning a district championship of their own in the next few years. They’ll have to get past the mental block they’ve had against Jensen, however. The talent is there. If they can beat a team like Sebring, they can beat Jensen Beach.

The good news is the team will have back many of the core players next year. The Lady Brahmans are only losing three seniors, Brienna Brockman, Ashley Snyder and Mallorie Thomas. The Lady Brahmans will miss the experience and consistency that Snyder, Brockman and Thomas brought to the team. But with talented sophomores like Joy Whipple, Ashley Phares and Anja Koivunen returning as juniors next year, along with freshmen players coming in from very good volleyball programs at Osceola Middle School and Yearling Middle School, the future looks bright for the Lady Brahmans.

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