tampabay.com

Bronco's serve comes together

By FRANK PASTOR
Published November 11, 2004


LAKELAND - For the first time all day, Stephanie Bradley was caught flat-footed.

"Were you working on your serve between the Nease game and this game?" the Middleburg senior hitter was asked after Wednesday's Class 4A semifinal against Hudson.

"I worked on it a little bit," Bradley said, sheepishly.

"Is that why you have the ice on your shoulder?" a reporter followed up.

The ice was because of the numerous arm swings that resulted in a match-high 17 kills for Bradley in Middleburg's 25-17, 25-21, 25-17 victory at The Lakeland Center. But it just as easily could have been from all the serving she did.

Bradley served 13 points, including eight of Middleburg's 19 aces, to put the Broncos into the state final a second straight season. Unlike the region final against Nease, in which she got only two over the net, Bradley gave Hudson fits with her jump serve.

"It came off and it sank," Hudson senior outside hitter and back row player Devon Fodi said. "Like it had 10 pounds of metal in it."

Bradley's serves cleared Hudson's front row before diving for the floor, causing libero Sara Hampshire to spend much of the match on her stomach.

"I think it's just the way it comes off my hand," Bradley said. "It's a top-spin serve, so I think it just drops more."

Over time, it dropped Hudson out of the playoffs.

With Middleburg up a game and leading 8-4 in the second, Bradley served five consecutive points, including three aces, to give the Broncos a 13-4 advantage.

Bradley's serving again turned the tide in the third game, when she accumulated six service points, including three aces. Middleburg led 4-3 when Bradley went to the service line and 7-3 when she left. Hudson got no closer than two the rest of the way.

Bradley said she worked on her jump serve in practice the past few days after having to abandon it against Nease.

"I missed a few of them, so I stopped jump serving," she said. "I think I made like two jump serves over the net the whole match, so I stopped."

Kavie Sturch added four aces, Jordan Gibson three, Brette Peeples two and Monique Crehore and Megan Steadman one apiece. Fittingly, the match ended on consecutive aces by Peeples, the last bringing right back Krysta Aguis skidding to a stop on her knees.

"I think we just didn't communicate enough, and we didn't talk," Fodi said.

"I just don't think we were on the same level."