Carrollwood Day had the stellar record, the star power and the lofty rankings.
The Patriots also had the pressure as the overwhelming favorite to win the Class 3A state volleyball title heading into Thursday’s championship match.
If there was one advantage their opponent, Miami Westminster Christian, did have, it was experience.
This was the Warriors’ fourth straight title match appearance. The previous three trips ended with losses, including the past two via sweeps to Tampa Bay area opponents (Calvary Christian in 2021 and Clearwater Central Catholic last season).
None of Carrollwood Day’s players had ever played in a high school championship match before. Would there be nerves? Would playing on the big stage in a big match be too much to bear?
They were shaky – initially.
Westminster Christian, hoping to end years of state title woes, won the first set, 25-23.
The Patriots soon realized this was not going to be easy
They battled to even the match with a 25-23 win in the second set. Carrollwood Day then got into a groove, winning 25-19 to go ahead for the first time in the match, then closing it out by outlasting the Warriors 29-27 in the fourth and decisive set.
This was the Patriots second state title in school history, the first coming in 2017. Carrollwood Day (31-2), ranked first in the class, third overall in the state and 21st nationally by MaxPreps, ended the season on a 14-match win streak.
Only one match went to five sets during that season-ending streak. That came against rival Berkeley Prep in last week’s region final, avenging the Patriots’ only loss to an area opponent this season.
Though Carrollwood Day lacked state title match experience, it was tested by playing a brutal regular season schedule and surviving perhaps the toughest region in the state.
Besides beating the Buccaneers a week ago, the Patriots also knocked off defending state champion Clearwater Central Catholic in the region quarterfinals and defending region finalist Sarasota Cardinal Mooney in the semifinals.
That moved Carrollwood Day into the national rankings.
But it was a championship trophy – not a ranking – that mattered most to the Patriots and first-year coach Doug Chinchar.
Chinchar has been in this position before. He coached at Bishop McLaughlin for 11 seasons and led the Hurricanes to state semifinal appearances three straight seasons (2018-20), including a state final appearance in ’18.
The quest for Chinchar to win an elusive state title became a family affair.
His two daughters, Naomi, a senior, and Lydia, a freshman, both played pivotal roles for Carrollwood Day this season.
Naomi, who signed with Army on Wednesday, kept feeding Lydia with clean sets. Lydia took advantage, finishing with a team-high 35 kills.
It was not just a sister act.
Olivia Badyna, Mattea Casale and Jensen Warbritton all shined on defense. Sarah Dibbs-Frantz was dominant at the net.
The result was a title in a season that was nearly perfect.