By Ryan Kuhn
For International High School, a perfect season became a reality.
After defeating three-time defending champ Bay School 25-16, 25-12, 20-25, 25-19 on Friday at Holy Trinity Church to win their first Bay Counties League Central championship under head coach Justin Caraway, the Jaguars also finished their season with a flawless league record.
“We have some big hitters and some stars, but it takes everyone to win a championship,” Caraway said. “We had a couple hiccups along the way, and we didn’t have a very good [non-league] season, but they came back and fought hard.”
International (16-10) jumped out early in the first game led by sophomore outside hitter Kassie Encinas.
After holding only a two-point lead early, the Jaguars finished the first game on a 14-7 run. Encinas had with five kills in the game and finished with 13 total.
Alongside teammate Sofia Fors, Encinas kept the International offense moving, but the Jaguars’ defense took control in the second game, holding the Breakers (13-13) to their lowest point total of the match.
“It was relentless pursuit,” said International libero Leonor Gaillard. “If we saw a ball about hit the ground we gave our body up to go get it. We would rather have everyone dive for that ball than lose.”
Bay’s offense finally awoke in the third game, when senior middle blocker Bayley McMillian contributed a pair of aces and two kills to build a 22-12 lead.
Despite International’s 8-2 run to close the game out, the Breakers held on in the third game.
“It was all about confidence,” said Bay head coach James Scrivano. “They had trouble defending us and we played well, but you can’t wait until the third game to start doing that.”
The Breakers stayed close in the fourth game until back-to-back kills by Fors extended International’s lead and one final kill by Encinas sealed the match for the Jaguars.
“I knew our team deserved this game,” Encinas said. “We played so hard and it wasn’t just for me, it was for our whole team.”
With the loss, Bay’s streak of three straight league titles was snapped, but the Breakers will return 12 varsity players next season.
“There was not a lot to say. It was a disapointing effort,” Scrivano said. “We had high expectations coming in today and we just didn’t get it done.”