BY GENE NARDI
On Thursday, Oct. 13, the Royal Palm Beach High School girls varsity volleyball team hosted the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in a non-district regular season finale and fell to the Jaguars in four sets: 23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 28-30.
The Wildcats (13-9, 5-1 in the district) did not go down without a fight on their senior night. The Wildcats led at one point in nearly every set. The loss does not affect the team on paper. The Wildcats defeated William T. Dwyer High School earlier in the week to lock in the No. 2 seed in the district tournament.
The Wildcats started a bit slowly out of the gate, going down 3-1 in the first set, but soon rallied with a five-point run to take an 8-4 lead. The teams exchanged the lead in the later part of the set, but the Jaguars regained the advantage and took it 25-23.
In the second set, Royal Palm Beach was down by five points, but rallied with stellar defense and counters to tie the set at 12-12. The Wildcats jumped out to a 20-17 lead with a solid serving series from Paola Melendez. The momentum carried the squad to a 25-20 win in the second set. Florida Atlantic University commit Kaila Dorish was instrumental in the second set for the Wildcats.
Royal Palm Beach lost a bit of luster in the third set, trailing the Jaguars 10-4, and eventually dropped the third 25-19.
The fourth set appeared to belong to the Wildcats when the team darted out to a 4-1 lead. Both teams played accurately, challenging the defense, but Royal Palm Beach maintained an 11-7 lead approaching midway through the set.
The Wildcats were committed to taking the match to a fifth set, but the Jaguars stole the momentum. They chipped away at the Wildcat lead with precision, eventually locking it up at 20-20. Both teams exchanged the lead, then tied again at 24-24. The Wildcats denied the Jaguar win until Dreyfoos tied it at 28-28. The Jaguars were able to steal the win with back-to-back points to take the fourth set 30-28, and the match.
The Wildcats finish the regular season 13-9. They marked themselves the second seed for the District 13-7A tournament. Wildcat top performers included Melendez with 24 digs and three kills; Dorish tallied 24 kills, 24 digs and three blocks; Miranda Hill recorded 14 digs and one kill; and Phoenix Strickler totaled 30 assists.
The district tournament began Monday, Oct. 17 with Royal Palm Beach taking on Olympic Heights High School, but results were not available at press time.
ABOVE: Kaila Dorish moves in low on the ball to keep it in play for the Lady Wildcats.