State volleyball: Tampa Bay HEAT swept in Ocala
It wasn’t easy, but it was still a sweep.
Ocala St. John rallied to win the first two sets and prevailed, rising to every challenge the Tampa Bay HEAT threw its way and finishing with a 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 win Saturday in the Class 2A state semifinals.
St. John (23-7) now sets its sights on Boynton Beach Lake Worth Christian for the state title, now the only obstacle in the Saints' way from winning their second straight state title. The state final is Friday at UCF.
In Saturday’s first set, St. John rallied from a 17-14 deficit, going on an 11-3 run to close it out. Kills by Kaylee Thomas and Leah Wilcox set the tone early during the late run while consecutive points by Yomaries Villegas, Malia Oliver, Jordyn Chaffin and Katie Rodriguez helped close things out.
Wilcox led the way with six kills in the first set while Thomas had five.
“I had a talk with Leah (Wilcox) earlier and said she is probably one of the most exciting players I have ever coached,” St. John coach Jason LaBorde said. “I mean her heart is there, and she is ready to play. Other teams try to wear her out as much as they can, but she’s gotten stronger this year and has been a real key asset to the team.”
The second set featured an even bigger rally. Down 15-6, LaBorde called a timeout and regroup.
“I had to tell them they are better than that and to just tighten up on their passing and calm down,” LaBorde said.
The Saints went on a 19-6 run, digging out several big hits by HEAT’s Abigail Casiano and Catherine Trueheart while closing out the set at 25-22 on a block by Chaffin.
The Saints never trailed in the third.
Chaffin finished the match with nine kills, four blocks, 14 digs and four service points, while Wilcox had a game-high 20 kills to go with 17 digs, one block and five service points.
Casiano (11 kills, four blocks) and Trueheart (six kills, three aces) led the HEAT (26-5).