Naples High head girls volleyball coach Shaliece Hall was sure the game could have turned in either direction, had those two points gone the Golden Eagles’ way.
But Fort Myers, which entered its Region 6A-3 quarterfinal against Naples on a five-match win streak, wasn’t having any part of that extended lifeline.
The Green Wave buried the final two points of a 23-all tie in their second set at the Wave Cave on Wednesday and took home a 3-0 win in sets of 25-20, 25-23 and 25-19.
Fort Myers, which lost in the Region 6A-3 final a season ago, moves on to face Barron Collier in the semifinals on Saturday in Naples. The Cougars defeated Estero 3-0 in the other quarterfinal.
“It was very crucial, because if we didn’t get that game it would have been a longer set with all of those long rallies,” said Fort Myers junior Alayna Ryan, who led the team with 18 kills and 16 digs. “We would have been so much tired. We needed to finish that quickly and we needed to start working together.”
Ryan’s clever push across net in the second game pushed the Green Wave up one, then a botched kill by Naples finished off the set, giving Fort Myers an edge it used to its advantage the rest of the way.
“It’s always important to close the game,” said Fort Myers head coach Stephanie Martin, whose team dispatched Estero 3-0 in the District 6A-11 championship on Oct. 22. “I think that gave us momentum.”
Senior middle hitter Kaitlin Stewart and junior outside hitter Lena Knox each had seven kills, while junior setter Erin Gear had 33 assists.
Fort Myers (17-11) was and wasn’t in trouble, pushing out to a 9-3 lead in its first game before withstanding a late Naples rally which cut the deficit to as little as three late. Again, the Green Wave scored the final two points of the game to close.
“They’ve been down a lot and battled a lot,” Martin said. “They don’t give up. It may not be pretty, but they don’t give up.”
In its third Game, the Green Wave was up as much as eight, 11-3, before again absorbing a Golden Eagles (13-10) attack that cut the lead to three points in the dire whims of the match.
“Once they got settled into playing at a pace they were capable of playing at comfortably, they matched Fort Myers pound for pound,” Hall said. “I think that was reflected in Game 3.”
But like before, Fort Myers closed, scoring four unanswered to clinch a trip to the semifinals.