Savannah Baker looks to the Community School of Naples bench during Monday night's home match against First Baptist Academy. GREGG HARDY/CSI
It’s “pedal to the metal” for the Community School of Naples and First Baptist Academy volleyball teams.
Really, it’s been that way all season for both teams. Have you seen the schedule both have played thus far?
Monday night was an opportunity for CSN’s Seahawks and FBA’s Lions to take it easy. Both had road matches the following night in the northern half of Lee County, with CSN having to face a proud Bishop Verot team bent on revenge after it was swept on the Seahawks’ floor last month.
But taking it easy would’ve betrayed who the Seahawks and Lions are. So they played each other in a rematch of the season opener at First Baptist, won by CSN in four sets. Monday’s result? Another four-set victory for the Seahawks, though this time, it was the Lions who dictated the pace early by winning the first set.
Monday’s match was originally scheduled to be played Sept. 17, but the Seahawks had to cancel due to their impending trip to Italy. (The Seahawks were supposed to go on the trip last year only to have it scrapped due to Hurricane Irma.)
The Lions initially scheduled a match with Golden Gate to fill the hole on their schedule, but after the Seahawks’ return from Italy, FBA coach Marci Walker and CSN counterpart Alicia MacIntyre decided to make the match happen.
“Anytime anyone wants to play, we always want to play. These girls love to play,” said MacIntyre, whose team (now 14-4 overall and 7-0 in Class 5A-District 10) completed the regular-season sweep of Bishop Verot in convincing fashion Tuesday after dropping the first set.
The Seahawks, who have an outright claim to 5A-10’s regular-season title all but wrapped up, host second-place but largely unproven Oasis (15-3, 5-2) on Thursday night. Then they wrap up the regular season next week with matches against three sub-.500 teams: Evangelical Christian, LaBelle and Seacrest Country Day School.
It’s no wonder why MacIntyre wanted to squeeze FBA into the schedule. CSN already had an easy time of it last week upon its return from Italy — though MacIntyre argued that a bus trip to Clewiston (now 1-10 on the season) following a transatlantic flight was far from easy.
“If we could have a whole season of FBAs and Barrons, we would,” said MacIntyre, alluding in part to CSN’s sweep at local powerhouse Barron Collier last month. “But I think we got (some) good time off going to Italy.”
Walker, likewise, was not going to pass on the chance to face CSN, not with her team having just completed an unbeaten run through a softer-than-usual Class 3A-District 12 schedule.
“Nothing against our district, but compared to where it’s been in the past, it’s not quite the same,” said Walker, alluding to rebuilding projects going on at former powerhouses Seacrest Country Day School and Evangelical Christian.
The Lions, who won at LaBelle on Tuesday to improve to 17-6 overall, close out the regular season next week with a couple of matches against schools from larger classifications. They’ll travel to Class 8A Riverdale (13-4) on Monday and host Class 7A North Fort Myers (17-4) on Tuesday.
The freshman-laden Seahawks welcomed another frosh, outside hitter/setter Cassidy Bloom, back to the lineup on Monday. Sidelined with an injured shoulder since the summer, Bloom was a key contributor in the win over FBA.
Bloom’s return helped mitigate the loss of freshman libero Becca Micelle, who MacIntyre said had been playing hurt since the beginning of the season and was sidelined just prior to the Italy trip.
Asked what it was like watching the Seahawks run out to a 12-4 start this season without her, Bloom said she tried to make the best of it.
“It was very exciting, but there’s nothing like being in the game,” Bloom said. “It’s very different. I tried to involve myself as much as I could on the bench, but there’s only so much you can do, so being really involved in the game I feel has helped me because I saw it from a different perspective, so seeing how things work on the outside was really helpful to me to come back.”
Bloom is returning at the right time.
“We have a countdown to playoffs,” she said before smiling effusively.
MacIntyre said having Bloom back on the floor gives her added flexibility in making personnel choices.
“We have so much versatility,” said MacIntyre, who cited Bloom and fellow freshmen Brooke Vroman and Savannah Baker as players who could play multiple attacking positions. “… It’s just exciting to have a little bit deeper bench.”
As for Micelle, MacIntyre said, “She’ll work to get back … and we’ll do the best that we can.”
Bloom talked about the Seahawks’ experience in Italy. They spent time in Rome (with a stop at Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church) and Naples (with a stop at nearby Pompei as Mount Vesuvius looms in the background).
They even managed to squeeze in a couple of exhibition matches with Italian teams.
The takeaway from the trip, according to Bloom: “The culture. It was very different. The game of volleyball is different — they have different rules. But yeah, the culture … being thrown in there. Only (a few) people spoke good English.”
Bloom said liberos are not allowed to serve in Italian volleyball. Also, if a ball hits the ceiling, the point was over.
There was one other difference between Italian and American volleyball. It was a bit of a deal breaker for the Seahawks.
“They didn’t really talk on the other side,” Bloom said. “They didn’t talk during the game. And we have to be loud. It’s one of our rules.”
Casting cultural norms aside, Bloom said the Seahawks talked plenty.
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