In the end, however, Vanguard fell to Venice 3-0 in straight sets despite a close match.
The Knights were returning to their home court for only the second time this season, as they look to build on—and surpass last season, in which they made it to the 5A state semifinals before falling to Ponte Vedra.
The Indians built a big lead in the first set, getting out to a 17-10 differential at one point. The Knights fought back to cut it to a five-point differential when Emma Ehmann delivered a whizzing spike to make it 21-17. She bit into the Indians lead yet again with an untouched ball delivered in bounds, then an ace on a serve to make it 22-19.
Venice ended up winning the set 25-22, but Ehmann’s performance was yet another indicator of what she brings to this team in search of a title.
“That’s our star right there,” said Luis Perez, Vanguard head coach. “You’re talking about somebody that goes hard every time. Her speed of the game, you know, goes really fast, with good sets; and obviously, we have one of the best setters in town with Sophie Reed, when they pair up, when they’re hot, it’s a good thing.”
In the second set, Vanguard led 17-12 at one point. But then Venice began a rally, helped by self-inflicted mistakes by the Knights.Both teams dug deep for the hotly contested set that saw each squad lay out for digs across the court. At one point, with the Knights down 21-18, an improbable rally saw Vanguard bring the ball back from the team bench, then Venice play it off the raised basketball goal and out of the rafters before it finally fell in a hole, and the Knights cut the lead to 21-19.
Venice had seven match points in the set, but Vanguard clawed back and evened the score. Eventually, a slip from libero Aria Eisel allowed the Indians to win the set, 27-25.
“When we go hard all the time, yes, we’re gonna make mistakes, so we got to work on being a little bit smarter.
“Obviously, our struggle is in our serve,” Perez said. “One of the things that we’ll talk about today is that they never gave up, you know, they fought all the way to the end, and I’m proud of them.”
The Knights fell in the third set, 25-22, giving Venice the straight win. Now Perez looks to make sure his team uses the match as a building block.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Perez said. “It wasn’t a blow-out. It was…25-22 and [27-25]…So, you know, we’re gonna find the positive of matches like this, for sure.
Vanguard will hit the road next to face Dunnellon on Thursday at 7 p.m.