Trinity Catholic sees its postseason come to an end against Cardinal Mooney in the state semifinals.
The hurt on their faces was easy to see. Some wiped away tears. Some sniffled. Some did both.
One year after coming back from a two sets to none deficit to defeat Sarasota Cardinal Mooney to win the FHSAA Class 5A state championship, Trinity Catholic's dreams of capturing the 3A title this season ended in the state semifinals with a 21-25, 25-19, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13 loss to the visiting Cougars.
The defeat was painful, not just because the Celtics' hopes of winning back-to-back championships vanished, but also because they desperately wanted to win the match for their coach, Jeff Reavis, who had to leave town on Friday to be with his ailing mother.
"There are lots of emotions right now," Trinity's acting head coach Tito Martinez said. "This is tough.“
"Cardinal Mooney played a great game and were ready for us on every ball, every second. We fought to the end and never quit. We stuck together until it was over and the result wasn't what we wanted. But both teams played at a high level, and I'm proud of our girls."
For his part, Cougars coach Chad Sutton said the sting of 2018's 25-27, 9-25, 25-17, 25-18, 15-11 loss hasn't gone away, but it wasn't the focus on Saturday afternoon.
"Obviously. this means a lot after last year," Sutton said. "That really hurt. But this is not about last year. (The Celtics) are the reigning champs, and this is a new year, a new season. Last year is last year. This was about now."
Cardinal Mooney (21-10), which will face Miami Westminster Christian (27-4) for the 3A title next Saturday in Fort Myers, was able to bounce back from a first set loss. Trinity (23-7) only trailed 3-2 to claim the next two sets behind balanced hitting that saw three players Sophie Hritz (16 kills), Skye Ekes (12 kills) and Mary Page (11 kills) finish the contest with double figures in kills.
And ahead 24-23 in the fourth and serving for match point, the Cougars looked ready to advance. But a block sandwiched by two of Penn State commitment Annie Cate Fitzpatrick's match-high 25 kills moved the contest to the fifth set.
There, Cardinal Mooney never trailed and held off a comeback that saw the Celtics score four straight points after falling behind 13-8.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy," Sutton said. "(The Celtics) have a great team and were the champs last year and at this point this year for a reason. Annie Cate is a great player, and there were times she took over. And (senior Kate Wonus, who had nine kills) is really good and a big part of what (Trinity does). We did what we could to limit her."
The loss concluded the high school careers of Trinity seniors Bailey Parker, Annabelle Wiechens, Mary Peyton Redrick, Regan Cole, Sam Jacobi, Samford commitment Wonus, Florida Atlantic commitment Raine Lynch and Fitzpatrick, who was voted the greatest player in Marion County history by a landslide in an informal preseason Twitter poll done by the Star-Banner.
"She has amazed me every day," Martinez said. "The level she plays at, the way she plays... she's unbelievable. She's a freak of nature, and I am grateful to have been a part of her growing process.
"It's a shame that it had to end this way."