It was the last home game ever for two Pirates: seniors Jaelyn Lawrence and Nicole Petro.
Leading 24-11 in the fourth set against the Bulldogs, Pirates hitter Jaelyn Lawrence nailed a serve toward an unsuspecting defender. And when Lawrence’s heater finally touched the court after ricocheting off her opponent’s hands, the match was finally over.
When Lawrence, a senior for the Pirates, stepped off the volleyball court on senior night at Matanzas High School, the weight of what had just happened finally hit her.
It was her final home game on a court where she spent countless hours practicing, winning games and developing close friendships.
“It was really sad, actually. Like kind of depressing almost,” Lawrence said. “But I’m glad we went out with a bang, and I’m glad I had the winning play of the game.”
Matanzas dominated crosstown rival Flagler Palm Coast in four sets on the night of Thursday, Oct. 12.
In the final game of the regular season for either team, Lawrence led the Pirates with 11 kills, and fellow senior Nicole Petro chipped in two kills and six digs. FPC hitter Angelica Collazo led the Bulldogs with seven kills.
“It was a tough game. Kudos to them. They did an awesome job,” FPC coach Ashlee Dietrich said of the Pirates. “Their kids had a lot of composure. They had great fundamentals, and they used them. Our kids showed up. They had a lot of heart, and I think it got in the way of their fundamental skills, and they just really weren’t prepared for the emotional outcome.”
Besides an anomaly of a third set, the Pirates dominated the entire match. The Pirates captured the first two sets with scores of 25-13 and 25-20, respectively. But after dropping the third set after numerous hitting errors, Matanzas returned to the court with a mindset to ensure the fourth set was the final frame of the game.
The Pirates won the set 25-11.
“Coach just told us that we just needed to keep our heads up and be more loud and be more excited for the game,” Lawrence said. “And we did that.”
For Lawrence and Petro, Thursday’s game wasn’t the end of their high school volleyball careers: Districts are just on the horizon.
But when it’s time to hang up their black-and-blue jerseys, the duo will be leaving a large part of their lives behind.
Lawrence transferred to Matanzas from FPC as a sophomore, and Petro has been playing for the Pirates ever since she moved from Ohio nearly two years ago.
When the time comes, the Pirates’ top-two playmakers will be leaving behind more than just a game: They’ll be leaving behind a group that has been almost like family to them.
“I think the experience of playing for this team was very positive in how we all became friends and how we all bonded,” Petro said. “It was not so much playing with a team, but playing with my best friends.”