At one point during a nine-point Bluffton run in the first set of Tuesday's home Class 4-A playoff volleyball match with Goose Creek, a Bobcats fan turned to the man sitting beside her and said, "They don't always show up, but they sure showed up tonight."
It's a good bet the Gators wish they didn't.
Bluffton started fast and never let up, dominating Goose Creek, 25-7, 25-7, 25-11, to advance to the second round. The Bobcats will host White Knoll, a 3-0 winner over Sumter, at 6 p.m. Thursday.
"They came to play today," said Bluffton coach Al Stern, echoing the thoughts of that fan. "This is probably the best match they've played in a year. Everyone played well."
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Stern believes simply being in the playoffs was the reason for the Bobcats' dominance. Whatever the cause, it must have been motivating.
"We had our heads in it," said Mackenzie Cooler, named to the All-State and North-South All-Star teams earlier Tuesday. "We practiced all weekend and we're ready to go out there and go as far as we can."
Bluffton never let Goose Creek put together a string of more than two consecutive points. And in each set, a Bobcat held serve for at least nine straight points.
In the first set, Grace Collins served the Bobcats to nine straight points to take a commanding 14-3 lead. In set 2, it was Melissa Bournstein on a 16-point run to take a 22-5 lead. And in the final set, Cooler's nine-point run gave Bluffton a 21-8 lead.
The Gators only led twice all night, at 6-5 and 7-6 in the third set.
Mackenzie Cooler led fellow all-stater Jordan Franklin, Haley Kohler and hard-hitting Madison Cooler in what at times was an all-out assault on the net. They kept the Gators on their heels by communicating well on the floor and keeping the pressure on by rarely making a mistake.
Stern contends that if the Bobcats can make fewer than five errors a game -- 15 for three sets -- they'll win every time. On Tuesday, they made 10 total.
"These girls want to win," Stern said. "The seniors know this is their last chance. The freshmen know that this might be their best chance. If we lose, we lose the seniors and then we've got to start all over again.
"They just came to play. They played great, every one of them."