Palm Beach Gardens falls in state volleyball final

The breakout season for the Palm Beach Gardens volleyball team came to a close in the very last game of the varsity volleyball season in Florida.

The Gators started strong against the nationally-ranked and undefeated West Orange Warriors from Winter Garden, but after dropping a close first set, they could not keep pace and were swept 25-23, 25-20, 27-25 in the Class 9A state final.

“Tonight just wasn’t that night for us,” Palm Beach Gardens coach Joy VanDyke said. “When we finally decided we were going to start playing our game, it was too late — their hitters and their blockers had found their momentum.”

The Gators (26-2) capitalized on their size and athleticism at the net early in the match, with several blocks forcing the Warriors to make some early adjustments. Senior Maddie Anderson, in particular, frustrated the Warriors (29-0) with seven of her team’s 12 total blocks.

The back-and-forth nature of the first set saw the teams tied at 22 before an error and a block by West Orange’s Taylor Head swung the set’s momentum back in the Warriors’ favor.

“We should have taken that first game, and we didn’t,” VanDyke said. “I think the fear of losing the (second) set was too big in our minds.”

Maddie Anderson had a match-high 21 kills on the night and her sister, Cassie, ended up tied with teammate Julia Cartales with a team-best 17 digs. Three other Gators (Ashley Klein, Bivins and Maddie Anderson) had double-digits digs, and Hannah Heide paced the Gardens offense with 15 assists.

Head, a sophomore for West Orange, led the Warriors with 19 kills. Torey Baum, a junior for West Orange, had a match-high 18 digs.

Despite the loss, Palm Beach Gardens can still boast of its first state finals appearance and a 24-game winning streak that spanned from Aug. 29 until Saturday.

“Having the opportunity to come all this way — second place in the state in 9A — that’s really good,” Maddie Anderson said. “I’m just really proud of our team.”

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