Gain comes from loss and Caitlin McCluskey, the Class 5A-4A-3A-2A Player of the Year, is grateful for it.
McCluskey and her Sheridan Hills teammates were swept by Boca Raton Christian on senior night. A regional semifinal rematch, however, gave McCluskey and Co. a chance at redemption.
"We were down in the third game 21-24 and we came back to win that game and then the fourth game," she recalled. "It showed we could fight and have heart."
Sheridan Hills won the game and used the momentum to eventually reach the state volleyball tournament for the third year in a row, where the Sharks lost in a state semifinal. McCluskey, an outside hitter, and her 260 kills helped her team finish 20-5.
McCluskey, who will play next season at St. Thomas University, said returning to state was a great experience. Watching her teammates use mental toughness to overcome Boca Raton Christian was easily the highlight of her season.
That is why coach Deborah Rantin said McCluskey played such a vital role on a team littered with underclassmen.
"She was crucial to what we did this season," said Rantin, who has been with the program for three seasons either as coach or an assistant. "She was the one girl who kept the focus. She was the one that held everything together."
Rantin said McCluskey was not emotional but she did understand certain moments.
Look at how McCluskey viewed this season and what it means for Sheridan Hills long after she's gone.
"We lost players this year," she said. "Some left and others graduated. But we still had our young core and they were good this year. They'll definitely have some good seasons to come where they can continue to build together and be strong."