KISSIMMEE -- After reaching the state semifinals last season, the Sheridan Hills Christian volleyball team went through, in essence, four coaches in six months.
That’s in addition to losing two starters to graduation and another two who transferred.
Despite the turmoil, the Sharks returned to the Class 2A state semifinals Thursday night — only to watch their star hitter, junior Caitlin McCluskey, injure her swinging shoulder on the third point of the match.
The result was a 25-11, 25-9, 25-14 rout by Winter Park’s Foundation Academy (27-3) at Silver Spurs Arena. McCluskey, who led Sheridan (14-8) with 523 kills this season, was held to one on Thursday, although she did return to the court after the injury.
“It was unfortunate,” Sheridan coach Debbie Rantin said. “That injury affected the rest of this team. Caitlin was more composed than her teammates, who were devastated. Caitlin fought hard, and I commend her for that.”
As for putting her back in the match, Rantin said she trusted McCluskey’s instincts that she would not do career-ending damage to the shoulder. Asked about the pain, McCluskey again showed her toughness.
“It was more painful to not be out there for them,” she said. “But I definitely felt a pop. I’ve done this [to my shoulder] before. I was trying to put [my shoulder back in place] during one of the plays. My coach called a timeout. I tried to hit, but it hurt really bad. So I left to go see the trainer.”
McCluskey said she is unsure if she will need surgery, but she is resigned to her shoulder never being 100 percent healthy.
“It was astounding [to get hurt], but I was at peace with this,” she said. “Maybe God has a reason for us to come out with an even bigger fire next year and go all the way.”
Foundation seemed to downplay the injury when standout Megan Miller said she thought the loss of McCluskey “minorly” affected Sheridan.
Rantin was upset at Founation’s tactic of serving an injured McCluskey. To Miller, though, McCluskey was fair game.
“We tried to attack her,” Miller said, “and make her weaker than she already was.”
Foundation, unbeaten against Class 2A teams this season, will now try to win its first state title when it plays Lake Worth Christian Friday night.
Despite the loss, the future appears bright for Sheridan Hills, which graduates only one player from its regular rotation.
Certainly, the girls who remain have already endured a lot, starting with the departure of last season’s coach, Todd Von Weyhe. After he left the school, his assistant, Rantin, was promoted. Rantin had led the school’s junior high team to a 16-0 record.
But when Rantin got pregnant, she decided to step aside as coach. The new coach also quickly resigned due to personal reasons, and Rantin was again offered the job.
Rantin, who had not told her players she was pregnant when she resigned, had by this point suffered a miscarriage.
“I’m sure the girls felt abandoned,” said Rantin, who ultimately decided to return to the team. “I lost one [child], but I gained 12.
“God has a bigger plan for all of us, and the love these girls have for me is overwhelming.”
Pine Crest had eight athletes in different sports sign this week as part of the early signing period.