JACKSONVILLE – With a week of power strokes from sophomore hitter Jasmine Robinson, the Fleming Island High volleyball team rebounded from back-to-back debilitating district losses to both Buchholz …
JACKSONVILLE – With a week of power strokes from sophomore hitter Jasmine Robinson, the Fleming Island High volleyball team rebounded from back-to-back debilitating district losses to both Buchholz and Bartram Trail to reset the team’s playoff aspirations.
“We were at a point where we were making too many mistakes and not playing as a unit,” said Fleming Island coach Amy Walker, who is trying to exorcise the demons of the past five years of district semifinal ousts from the very rugged district 4-8A lineup; Buchholz, Bartram Trail, Creekside and Oakleaf. “I think we got to a point this week where we were all on the same page. I’d rather them hiccup now then at playoff time.”
First on the block was a tough dual match win over Ridgeview High, the three-time district 4-6A champions under coach Destiny Brightman, a former assistant coach with Walker in the very consistent playoff runs at Orange Park High School from years past.
Against Ridgeview, Robinson emerged as the top hitter for Walker with 11 kills on the night as the Panthers tried to double up on Fleming Island’s top hitter Rayna Durden with blockers Kaelye Kellar and Aubrey Brown.
Fleming Island won convincingly 3-0, but lulled in game two with Ridgeview surging to an early 11-7 lead, but then falling 25-22 to set up the 25-17 final for the win.
“We have a feeling sometimes that ‘we got this’ and I have to shake them out of it against tough teams like Ridgeview that will fight each game,” said Walker. “They finished strong, but I knew Ridgeview would not back down.”
Entering the very tough gauntlet at the annual River City Jam tournament hosted by the Jacksonville Junior Volleyball Association (JJVA) Friday and Saturday, Fleming Island opened with a 2-0 win over previously unbeaten New Smyrna Beach, a Class 7A Final Four finisher in 2017, then proceeded to wreck Ponte Vedra 2-0, 4A-Providence (region finalist) 2-1 and defending Class 1A champion Sneads 2-0 to set up a rematch of sorts with the defending Class 6A champion Ponte Vedra squad that only graduated two players from their 2017 roster.
“That game was a test of endurance and mental focus,” said Walker. “All the teams playing that tournament got very physical games on a tight schedule and we lasted to the final with a little grit.”
Against New Smyrna Beach, won 25-10, 25-15, Fleming Island roared to the lead behind seven kills from Durden and five from Lyara Rosario, the other outside hitter.. Robinson had three kills plus three blocks at the net.
Against Providence, won in a tough 25-23, 24-26 and 15-3 overtime, Fleming Island had to regroup behind freshman Maya Walker’s five kills at the net as Robinson got stymied to just one scoring shot and Fleming Island was limited to just three blocked shots.
Against Ponte Vedra, in the championship game, Fleming Island won handily 25-14 and 25-15 behind eight scores from Durden, five from Walker and three from both Robinson and senior Madison Mas as the Ponte Vedra blocking personnel seemed a second or two late to the fast-attacking front of Fleming Island.
“We tried to keep them guessing by swinging the ball from side to side on the court,” said Walker. “We needed an edge against their height and our libero, Jangelyz Ramirez made 15 digs on their front hitters to keep the ball alive for us.”
Fleming Island will further test their playoff readiness with Bartram Trail and Buchholz both visiting the Golden Eagle gymnasium this week (Sept. 18 and Sept. 20) with Creekside and Oakleaf the following week.
Also at the River City Jam, Oakleaf won two matches and lost one; beating Johns Creek High (GA) and Tallahasse Maclay before falling to Pedro Menendez, before losing to Florida High in the first round of the championship bracket.
In other brackets, Clay won one match; 2-1 against Effingham County (GA), and lost two: Bolles and Stanton. Orange Park finished with one win; 2-0 over Trinity High before finishing fourth after a loss to Bolles in the third place match. Keystone Heights won two matches; 2-0 over Duval Charter and 2-0 over University Christian in pool play then finished third overall with a win over Fernandina Beach. Ridgeview won one match; 2-0 over Trinity, and lost one 2-1 to Columbia with a win over Clay in the championship round one matrch before losing to Effingham County (GA) in the semifinal.