7A-8: Sunlake goes on late scoring 'Spree' to top Land O'Lakes
TRINITY — Top-seeded Mitchell, the defending state runnerup, dispatched Springstead 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 in the Class 7A, District 8 semifinals Tuesday and will play No. 3 seed Sunlake in Thursday's final.
A strong fourth seed, Springstead (12-12) kept pace early behind Alexis Thompson's six kills but Mitchell pulled away and never wavered. Jessie Mooney and 6-foot sophomore middle Kennedy Deluca put down nine kills apiece for Mitchell while Mariella Haimes added seven, Morgin Tew six. Jennifer Aten had 10, Thompson nine for the Eagles.
Mitchell (18-4) has won 16 of its past 17 matches, the lone loss coming to the team that got knocked out in Tuesday's first match. Sunlake (14-10) secured its third consecutive playoff trip against a team looking for its first in nine years, grinding its way past No. 2 seed Land O' Lakes 19-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-17, 15-6.
Land O' Lakes (14-4) looked in line especially when Tori Thomopalos (match-high 18 kills) came up with the it-never-works kick save late in the second set. But in the third Sunlake, which had just 10 kills to that point, erupted for 16. Three players went from being shut out to combining for nine (Emily Schoonover 4, Colby Coats 3, Kamea Nash 2.)
And the key to the turnaround was ... sugar.
"Spree candy. We had it just in case and we had to do something. It gave us a surge of energy," said Hannah Presson, who paced the Seahawks with a torrid effort, leading with 10 kills and adding 17 digs.
She, Schoonover, Coats and libero Nelly Diaz also played like seniors who had better get it going.
"I'm usually the energy bunny and I'm thinking, 'Oh no, this might be it. We better go all out,'" Presson said.
It was the 75th victory for the seniors and for Newton. an impressive number for a program went a combined 5-59 before she took over. Sunlake reached the state semifinals in 2014.
As she was in the third, Schoonover was great in the final set, going for three of her eight kills as Sunlake jumped up 5-0. Sister Caroline, a 5-foot-10 freshman, came up with a big block and ended with seven kills. Sofia McGuire, a 5-11 freshman, added six kills while Nash had five. Diaz led Sunlake with 25 digs and also served five aces.
Libero Kianna Long paced the Gators with 22 digs, two more than Thomopalos while Abbi Hindersman had 15. Sydney Hiner, Courtney Redfern and Madison Lord-Smith (three blocks) each contributed five kills, and senior setter Sidney Hindersman provided 30 assists, 10 in a dominant second set.
McGuire was a big factor in slowing down Thomopalos, who looked unstoppable with six kills in each of the first two sets. The Gators (14-4) had overcome a 10-6 deficit in the first, going on a 12-2 run. Then they opened up a 7-0 lead in the second.
"They beat us at our place after we were up 2-0, so I reminded them it wasn't over," said Seahawks coach Deann Newton. "It was just a matter of being aggressive. If the shot is there, go for it."
Newton confirmed Sprees will become a staple at the Seahawks bench. They were on hand when Sunlake swept the Gators in the most recent match.
"I will be bringing those for remainder of the season," she said.