TAMPA — Emerging from the monumental shadow cast from playing in the same district as the state’s top volleyball team is difficult.
And defending Class 3A state champ Berkeley Prep, ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps, held up its end with a convincing four-set win in Wednesday’s second Class 3A-10 district semifinal.
But the night belonged to No. 2 seed Clearwater Central Catholic and No. 3 seed Academy of the Holy Names, who battled through a two-hour, five-game classic won by the Marauders 17-25, 26-24, 25-22, 13-25, 19-17.
After dropping the first game and allowing Holy Names to grab momentum in the fourth and fifth games, CCC (23-5) was one point from elimination, trailing 14-13 in the final game.
The Marauders took the next two points, but the Jaguars didn’t go quietly, coming back three times from match point until finally falling — each time surviving with a kill from freshman outside hitter Sidney Brown, who had a match-high 26 kills.
“I usually talk to them for 20 minutes, but there was nothing to say,” Holy Names coach Kevin Reynolds said. “They left it on the floor. They played a great match. They had the heart to stay with it and keep playing volleyball. They didn’t concede anything.”
Marauders junior outside hitter Kalyn Baird had a team-high 19 kills, while sophomore Casey Moore added 11 and junior Morgan O’Brien had 10. Junior setter Megan Miller had a team-high 32 assists, while senior libero Joette Amundaray had 19 digs and sophomore Rachel Miller had 14 digs and four aces.
After falling behind 2-1 in games, the Jaguars (16-8) stole momentum in a Game 4, going up 12-2. Holy Names went up 10-6 in Game 5, but a Marauders rally had the teams exchanging points until the final play.
Junior hitter Brynn Wiley, who played her first match in three weeks after dislocating her kneecap, had 17 kills for the Jaguars.
CCC advances to the region tournament for the third straight year, each time under a different coach.
Berkeley Prep (24-2) clinched its 16th straight region tournament berth by defeating No. 4 seed Tampa Catholic (12-8) 25-12, 25-15, 18-25, 25-12.
Bucs outside hitter Amber Mirabello led with 13 kills, while Taylor Hayes, Mackenzie Dagostino and Jordan Burgess had eight each. Libero Natasha Rowland had 10 digs and Mackenzie Dagostino led with 17 assists.
“I liked some of the things I saw,” Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino said. “You’re a much tougher team to beat when you can diversify your offense a bit.”
Junior Olivia Brennan led the Crusaders with seven kills, and Julianne Holcombe had five blocks.