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BRADENTON — Whenever she stepped foot in Hoagland Arena, Lauren Johnson didn’t take notice of what she saw.
Rather, she took notice of what she didn’t see — a championship banner for St. Stephen’s.
That’s about to change.
The Falcons won the first district title in program history Thursday night, defeating top-seeded Northside Christian 3-2 in the Class 2A, District 11 final.
“This is the first volleyball banner we’re going to put up in the gym, and I know it means a lot for Coach (Nancy Cothron),” said Johnson, a junior who had seven kills and a team-high three aces. “I’m so excited.”
It was a landmark night for the third-seeded Falcons (16-11). Aside from winning the championship, Thursday marked the first time St. Stephen’s had beaten the Mustangs (17-7) — or even forced them to a fifth game.
Though they had little answer for Mustangs middle hitter Jennica Mullins, whose three blocks and two kills staked Northside Christian to a 6-1 lead in Game 1, the Falcons turned a near-rout into a nail biter before losing 25-21.
St. Stephen’s took Game 2 26-24, then the Mustangs struck back in Game 3 25-17.
That didn’t deter the Falcons, who won Game 4 25-16. They never trailed in Game 5, locking it down 15-10. Tori Biach figured out Mullins, blocking her twice.