ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Jayda Redd burned Lake Nona’s defense for a team-high 16 kills Wednesday, and Valerie Yambao set 44 assists to guide the Timber Creek Wolves past the Lions, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-14, in a playoff tune-up for both teams.
The Wolves (10-4, No. 9 in the FHSAA’s Class 7A rankings) are tuning up for a deep District 4-7A by closing Wednesday against rival East River, then at FHSAA No. 3 Osceola on Oct. 11. Timber Creek coach Julianne Calcote said the Wolves were blessed to even get Lake Nona (9-4, No. 11 in FHSAA 7A rankings) on the schedule.
She said the Lions provided a great test for a tired Wolves team. Timber Creek
“They’re a good team,” Calcote said of Lake Nona. “For us to be a little tired than I’d like to be, it’s a big win for us, now kind of rolling into the remainder of the season. We have a week left until postseason. It’s showing good things for us.”
Timber Creek downed Lake Nona largely because of the Wolves’ ability to handle the occasional chaos. Yambao, a 5-foot-6 freshman, excelled in setting a Wolves attack that had four players with seven kills or more.
Yambao proved she can set the quick-middle – setting eight kills via that route. She set back-row kills. A few times, she even set clear across the court to deal a perfect pass to Redd or Dionna Mitchell.
“I’ve got to have confidence when I’m doing it,” Yambao said. “I want to move it around and try to trick the other side with blocking.”
Yambao lauded the defensive specialists in digging and service reception. Calcote said Yambao has helped the Wolves succeed in switching from a 6-hitter, 2-setter offense to a 5-1 offense. Calcote lauded Yambao for making quick adjustments and choosing the right hitter.
Redd and Dionna Mitchell also helped in the chaos. Redd had five of her 16 kills in the last set, helping the Wolves put the match away.
“I think as a hitter, it’s my job to fix the ball,” Redd said. “Bad pass or bad set, it’s my opportunity to fix the ball and put it away. I have a responsibility to put the ball away and score points for our team.”
Mitchell added 15 kills, while Channing Warren and Alena Johnson each had seven kills.
“Our setters and libero and coaches were telling us what was open,” Mitchell said. “It was helping me see where the block was.”
Warren also had six blocks, including two solo blocks, for the Wolves.
Junior Emma Gongora slammed a match-high 19 kills for Lake Nona, who also got 12 kills from Anna Pantano. Alexandra Pantano and Alana Baerga had 11 assists each for the Lions, who play at West Orange on Monday, then close with two matches against 2021 7A finalist Windermere – at Windermere on Oct. 11 and at Lake Nona on Oct. 13.
The Lions are preparing for a district that includes No. 3 Kissimmee Osceola. Lake Nona coach Yeyo Rodriguez said that Timber Creek proved to be a tough foe.
“We tried to serve hard,” Lake Nona coach Yeyo Rodriguez said. “They pass really good. If they pass good, they have a lot of options.”
Lake Nona challenged the Wolves through the first three sets. Timber Creek took the first set despite 12 ties. The Wolves had to rally from 23-20 down. Redd had kills on three of the last four points.
The Lions took the second game, using a 4-0 run mid-set to turn a 9-8 lead into a 13-8 edge. The Wolves got no closer than two points the rest of that set. After Gongora got most of the kills in the first set, the Lions were able to get other hitters into the offense. Anna Pantano had four kills in the second set.
Johnson and Amanda McInis got back-to-back kills to break a 12-12 tie in the third set. Redd and Mitchell kept the Wolves just ahead to take the third set.
In the clinching set, Timber Creek clung to an 8-6 lead, then outscored the Lions 17-8 the rest of the match.
The Wolves share District 4-7A with No. 8 Hagerty and No. 2 Winter Park. Warren said the Wolves need to
“We need to battle,” Warren said. “Every game should be a battle. Even if the team is ranked higher than us, even if the team is supposed to be better than us, we should battle every single point. Even if they get a point, we should brush it off and keep going.”