MacIntyre: Forget early losses to Mooney; tight-knit Seahawks can oust state champs

It's been a record-setting season for Elly Beshears and a couple of other CSN Seahawks, who get to host defending state champion Cardinal Mooney in a regional semifinal Tuesday. SCOTT SHOOK/SPECIAL TO CSI

BY SCOTT SHOOK
SPECIAL TO CSI

Community School of Naples volleyball coach Alicia MacIntyre knows she has a special team.  

After dispatching of Out-of-Door Academy 25-16, 25-9, 25-18 on Thursday in CSN’s home gym, while substituting liberally, MacIntyre was ready to reflect on her squad’s accomplishments so far — and to talk about the team her Seahawks will host in Tuesday’s regional semifinal: defending Class 3A state champion Cardinal Mooney.

PHOTO GALLERY: View images of the Out-of-Door Academy-Community School volleyball match

“Caroline Costa broke the season assists record tonight and the career record tonight,” MacIntyre said proudly. “And in our last district game, we had Elly Beshears and Cassidy Bloom set the kills season record, and Becca Micelle set the digs record. So it’s been a good records year.

CSN players and coaches join in celebrating the career assists milestone set by Caroline Costa, below, after the Seahawks’ regional quarterfinal win over Out-of-Door Academy. SCOTT SHOOK/SPECIAL TO CSI

“I’m excited for them. They work really hard.”

MacIntyre has a pack of juniors who have played together practically since they were toddlers.  And they’re good. Really good.

“Kathleen Donahue is our only senior,” MacIntyre said. “We have six juniors. Most of these girls have been on varsity since eighth grade — and they played together before that. So they have that advantage. It truly is a family. I think this is a once in a lifetime team. They’re playing for each other. We have 15 players — I’m excited about how deep our bench is this year. Looking to the future, that’s exciting for us.”

MacIntyre’s bench saw plenty of action against Out-of-Door Academy (4-8).

“Any time we can get our bench players in, we want to make sure they get that opportunity,” MacIntyre said. “They’re such a big part of this team. Just as valuable as any of the starters. We’re really lucky.”

MacIntyre likely will not have that luxury when Cardinal Mooney makes the trip down from Sarasota. The Cougars (18-8) — whose state title run last season was preceded by a state runner-up finish in 2018 — own a pair of wins against Community School (21-5) this season. Those victories came within four days of each other — a four-set win at CSN in the Seahawks’ season opener Sept. 8; and a 2-0 neutral court triumph on Sept. 12. 

“Different things have come and gone since then,” MacIntyre said. “What we really saw throughout the season (was that) any team that we step on the floor against, we can compete with. I’ll choose this team every time. This team has fire, they have passion, and they love to play for each other. I think that’s what makes us different than anybody else. We’re going to come out and do what we do best. That’s be disciplined, have gritty defense, big energy. If we do that, I’m confident.”

Since those two losses to Cardinal Mooney, CSN has knocked off a slew of powerhouse programs, including Venice and Tampa Plant. (Cardinal Mooney lost both matches to Plant, while splitting a pair of matches with Venice.)

The Killer Bs: CSN opponents don’t see these smiles when Elly Beshears, left, and Cassidy Bloom, right, are smashing spikes down on them.  SCOTT SHOOK/SPECIAL TO CSI

MacIntyre believes her Seahawks are special. She likes the way they play as a team. It starts up front with a strong pair of hitters in Beshears and Bloom.

“It’s always a good advantage to have two big hitters,” MacIntrye said. “They balance each other out. They support each other. They compete with each other. And (they) energize each other. What makes them so great is their connection with Caroline. They really connect with her. They trust every single person on the court behind them that they’re going to have their backs, so they’re not afraid to go up and pound the ball. Because they know that their defense is behind them. I think that’s what makes this team so special.”

McIntyre says her team will not be outworked. The Seahawks work especially hard on their defense.

“We come in the gym every day and say we want to the the hardest working team in the state,” MacIntyre said. “And I truly believe they work harder than anybody else. They come in here, they don’t make excuses, they grind every day to become a better defensive team. It’s a cliche, but I feel defense wins games. We may not be the tallest team — but we’ve beat some huge teams. That’s because we’re gritty. We never give up on the ball. That’s something we’ve been working on since those first three games: having that desire to play defense. I think that’s much improved.

“I feel our serve/receive is much better. We’ve worked on the different things in the front row (like) our disciplined blocks. I hope from the beginning of the year to the end of the year you’re making some improvement. I believe that we have.”