Seven Rivers Volleyball Send-Off

Seven Rivers Christian School varsity volleyball team captain Katelyn Kelso gives a student a high-five Thursday before she and teammates Erika Villanueva, middle, and Julia Shipes board a bus to Friday's state championship game in Fort Myers against Lake Worth Christian.

Hundreds of Seven Rivers Christian School students gave their volleyball Warriors a roaring send-off Thursday morning as the team ventured to their program’s first state championship.

Students, from Pre-K to high schoolers, lined the sides of the school’s driveway with signs and waves as their 11 varsity players gave them hugs and high-fives on the way to their bus.

“Let’s go Warriors,” students cheered, “let’s go!”

At noon Friday in Fort Myers, the Warriors (24-3) face off against Lake Worth Christian (26-4) in the FHSAA Class 2A state title match, and the girls are looking to make history at the last game of their season.

“It’s a dream come true, it’s amazing,” 18-year-old senior and Warriors co-captain Katelyn Kelso said before picking-up her overnight bags and pillow. “All the emotions are coming through, it’s awesome.”

“It’s a little unreal,” added 17-year-old senior and co-captain Jane Jeffes. “I’m real excited; it’s been a dream for a long time, but we weren’t sure that it was going to happen.”

At Nov. 9’s semifinal in their home gym, the Warriors, in a tense five-set duel, pulled a victory away from defending state champions Geneva (13-11).

Varsity volleyball head coach Steve Stack, joined by assistant coach Cora Haggerty, said the Warriors team has proved they deserve and want a win.

“The girls have had this as a goal for a long time; they put their hearts on the court and they’re in it,” Stack said. “To know that some of the great teams that we had to play and beat to be here; for us to still be here, it’s a humbling experience and it’s a real hard thing to do.

“This game is hard, and it throws a lot at them,”  he added. “Life will be hard and it will throw a lot at them, but as a coach, as a parent and teacher, that’s what you want from these young ladies — having them prepared for life, and they’ve shown it time and time again.”

Kelso said that “no matter what happens, win or lose,” she and her team will continue to set, serve and spike their season out together.

“We made it to the last game that anybody could ever play,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot this year, and my team has stuck by me. We’ll just play our game and have fun.”

Jeffes she’s ready to enjoy the moment with her fellow Warriors.

“I’m really excited to win or lose with my team; I’m excited at the possibility of winning, but it would great to be together for one more game,” she said before sharing advice for her teammates. “Play your heart out for every point because every point is going to matter.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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