KISSIMMEE — Robinson High’s volleyball team hadn’t played in a state tournament match since 1978.
Until last year, no team had advanced past the second round of the playoffs since that season.
But on Tuesday, a new era of athletes donning black and white represented the Knights on the big stage. Unfortunately, the bright lights got the best of them.
After grinding out a narrow win in the first set, Belleview won three straight sets to win the Class 5A state semifinal match 25-27, 26-24, 25-11 and 25-19.
Belleview will play the winner of the Orlando Bishop Moore-Jacksonville Bishop Kenny match tonight at 7.
“It was the first time this team has been on this stage, to be honest, so I think there’s a shift in mindset, maybe a little bit of hesitation and being able to make some of the plays,” Robinson coach Christen Garcia said. “A little bit of a breakdown from confidence standpoint. We just really never overcame that.”
Robinson built a wall around Belleview’s top player, Mikaylah Gillespie, in the first two sets. By the third, however, the wall had begun to crack. By the fourth and deciding set, Gillespie’s kills were hitting the floor uncontested. She finished with a match-high 26 kills, but had 62 attempts, nearly twice that of any other Belleview player.
“I think there was a sort of fatigue,” Garcia said. “That’s been something we battled all year. We’re scrappy, but when you really rely on just your defense, it’s difficult to really carry through those long matches.”
Catia Sleet led Robinson with 12 kills. Four Robinson players reached double digits in digs, led by Alex Peterson’s 25.
On Saturday, Robinson rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the region final to win 3-2. On Tuesday, the desire was there, but the rally wasn’t there.
“We all wanted it, but we didn’t do the little things that we know we can do or minimize the errors that we can control, which is what beat us in the last two sets,” said senior setter Kylee Gorngpratum, who had 19 assists and 17 digs.
“This was that step we wanted to overcome,” Gorngpratum said. “I think we got to that step but need that extra push or those little things that we needed to work on, skill wise and mental things as well.”