TAMPA — Winning a district title is an afterthought for the Berkeley Prep volleyball program.
After all, the Buccaneers have captured the past 11 in a row.
Academy of the Holy Names hadn’t won districts since 2003 and hadn’t beaten Berkeley Prep since before anybody could remember.
At Thursday’s Class 4A, District 10 final, potential trumped tradition.
AHN persevered through a do-or-die Game 3, overcame a flat Game 4 and held off the Buccaneers in Game 5 for a dramatic 13-25, 25-20, 32-30, 20-25, 15-13 victory that left the spectators at Tampa Catholic catching their collective breath.
“It’s been a long, long time (since AHN beat Berkeley Prep), let’s put it that way, if it’s ever happened,” AHN coach Jeff Davis said. “… It wasn’t any other reason. (Berkeley Prep) didn’t play bad. We didn’t get lucky. We outplayed them tonight.”
Berkeley Prep (19-7) led wire-to-wire to easily win the opening game before AHN (15-12) rebounded in Game 2, reeling off five straight points leading 19-18 to pull away.
Game 3 proved to be the pivotal moment in the match. AHN had five set points after building a 24-19 advantage but couldn’t see it through, the Buccaneers tying at 24-all on one of Logan Weldon’s 26 kills. The Jaguars had seven more set points, but Berkeley held each time until finally, trailing 31-30, a double hit cost the Buccaneers the game and, most likely, the match.
“That third game that we won, it just helped us get pumped, and it made us believe in ourselves that we can do this and it is possible,” AHN junior hitter Courtney Vogler said. “It gave us motivation.”
Berkeley Prep responded in Game 4, opening an early lead and extending it to 23-15 before holding off a late charge.
In the final game, the teams played even to 11-all until a Lily Veith kill and Vogler block gave the Jaguars a two-point advantage. Holding match point at 14-13 and calling timeout to set up the final play, AHN went to its big hitter, Vogler, who delivered with her title-clenching 23rd kill.
“This is definitely a big one for us,” Vogler said. “I’m just so excited.”
Becca Prossen added 13 kills and four aces for AHN. Maddie Raquet had 12 kills for Berkeley Prep.
8A-7: Plant amps up pressure
TAMPA — After losing the first game to Bloomingdale Thursday, Plant senior middle hitter Kyuana King said her team didn’t panic.
“We weren’t very professional like we normally should be,” she said. “We wanted to see what (Bloomingdale) had, and we knew what we had. So we brought it back at them in the second, third and fourth games.”
King’s play and a defensive adjustment on Bloomingdale standout Karissa Rhoades helped Plant win the Class 8A, District 7 championship 25-27, 25-20, 25-9, 25-21. Rhoades dominated Game 1, but Bloomingdale didn’t have an answer after Plant adjusted.
“(Rhoades) hits line every time, otherwise she comes inside and it’s really obvious,” King said. “So we took her line (away) and she started tipping and rolling. Our setters knew their roles to come under and get that tip, and that’s all (Rhoades) could do after that.”
The match swung in the second game when the Bulls (17-11) had a chance to tie at 21. But a Bloomingdale player hit an open shot wide, and Plant (17-6) scored the next four points.
“We didn’t win big points,” Bulls coach Margeaux Sinibaldi said. “(Plant) won all the big rallies, which is momentum changing.”
Said Plant coach Jessica Lamm: “We defended Karissa well, but one of the most important things was getting our middles involved.
That changes a whole different dynamic and makes them harder to get her a good ball.”
7A-7: Durant now 26-0
GIBSONTON — The teams that dominated 7A-7 all season found themselves pitted against each other for the district title Thursday night. Durant, undefeated in district play all season, swept Plant City 25-19, 25-16, 25-13 on the back of stud outside hitter Lexi
Thompson’s eight kills, the last of which fell for the final point of the match.
The Raiders had fallen five times to the Cougars (26-0) in the regular season and hoped the sixth time would be a charm.
“I knew they would come out strong, they had it all on us,” Cougars coach Brittany Wade said.
The Raiders jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set only to give up a 6-0 Cougar run to trail 7-4. Both teams were blocking well at the net and shifted to short, quick sets. The Raiders held the set close until 6-0 and 4-0 runs capped by a Thompson kill. Lindsey Robinson drove the set point home with a one-hit spike in the middle of the net.
In the second set, the Cougars were nearly flawless. Their rotations and movements seemed like timed choreography as they jumped out to a 14-9 lead. Two of the best plays all night happened in that second set. Kelsey Morton helped with a block at the net and the ball came back on her side and she was able to knock it back up in the air for one of her teammates, all before her feet touched down. Thompson ran into the Cougar bench after a ball and not only put it back in play but over the net.
“Those are my favorite plays,” Thompson said. “They get me pumped even more than the hits.”
The Cougars cruised through the third set 25-13, punctuated by a Thompson kill. Thompson finished with just eight kills and teammate Victoria Fanning had nine.
6A-9: Lions adjust
King (16-4) fixed its communication miscues from Wednesday to sweep Hillsborough 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 at Leto.
“The girls really focused on that tonight,” Lions coach Cookie Mitchell said.
The result was fewer errors and King’s first district championship since 2005. The Lions — one of the county’s best serving teams — had strong performances by Mercedyz Mitchell and Alexandra Pividal against the Terriers (14-7). Junior Arielle Allen had a team-high 13 kills.
“We were serving real tough,” Mitchell said. “That’s one thing our team does really well, is serve tough.”
5A-9: Knights roll
Robinson (11-13) faced tough competition all season and had no problem against Middleton. The Knights cruised to a 25-5, 25-9, 25-4 sweep at Spoto.
“We’ve just been preparing for the postseason,” Knights coach Christen Garcia said.
Senior Lauren Wheatley led Robinson with nine kills and seven aces, and Lauren Peterson added five kills and four aces. Setter Kylee Gorngpratum contributed 20 assists. Middleton (4-16) still advances to its first playoff appearance, while Robinson secured its third consecutive district championship.
3A-7: Terps get another title
Tampa Prep started fast in Thursday night’s Class 3A, District 7 championship, pushing the tempo and executing its game plan well.
The Terrapins relented in the second set, just long enough for Bishop McLaughlin to make it interesting. But Tampa Prep pulled away, earning a 25-14, 22-25, 25-14, 25-19 home victory and adding another district title to its storied program.
“We got a big lead and then kind of relaxed,” Terrapins coach Andrew Wilson said. “You can’t do that. Bishop’s a good team. They have some good attackers. This is the playoffs. There is no relaxing.”
Tampa Prep (14-10) picked up the pace and regained its aggression enough to hold off the Hurricanes (17-6), who are headed to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
Junior Corey Perkins had 17 kills and 15 digs for the Terrapins. Claire Blumenthal added 17 digs, and Kamryn Beach had two of her nine kills early while chipping in five blocks.
2A-7: HEAT finally puts away Cambridge Christian
LAND O’LAKES — In its first year of eligibility for the playoffs, the Tampa Bay HEAT looks like it could do some damage. The HEAT swept Cambridge Christian 25-22, 25-18, 26-24 Thursday night for the District 2A-7 championship.
“It was a long time coming,” said junior setter Ari La Roe, who had 23 assists. This is her third year playing for the collection of homeschooled students with no home gym. Despite the district champ’s right to host, they may have to travel for their first-round playoff game.
Wherever it plays the HEAT (18-3) bring some thump. Sophomore Abigail Hodges had 12 kills, two on designed plays out of timeouts that boosted her team at critical moments. And though Victoria Truehart had a modest kill total (nine) she took over the match three times on her serve, starting with a seven-point run in the first set.
Cambridge, which battled the HEAT to five sets in two regular-season losses, led 24-22 in the third after Veronica Hubbard made a great dig and Grace Nelson recorded her match-high 15th kill. But Truehart answered with a smash and then her sister, Catherine, delivered three serves the Lancers couldn’t handle.
Catherine also had the block that started a 3-0 run to end the first set, and Victoria finished with five aces.
“This was my goal for them,” said coach Mark Kachurak on the district title. “The rest is icing, but I think we could surprise some people. We can make some noise.”
Lauren Steinle had 11 kills, six in the last set, several absolute bombs for the Lancers (12-14). Cambridge setter Katherine Dykes posted 26 assists.
HEAT senior Rachel Tierney led all players with 15 digs.
2A-8: Faith Warriors stun top seed
The Class 2A, District 8 final was supposed to be a foregone conclusion considering host Keswick Christian, the top seed, had beaten Bayshore Christian in four games twice during the regular season.
But the Faith Warriors pulled off the stunner, beating the Crusaders 25-23, 25-14, 25-21.
The first game was big with Bayshore holding on for a close win and giving them the momentum needed to sweep the match.
Odd classes Tuesday; even classes Wednesday. 7 p.m.
8A: Palm Harbor U. at Plant
8A: Bloomingdale at Manatee
7A: Plant City at Wiregrass Ranch-Steinbrenner winner*
7A: Wiregrass Ranch-Steinbrenner loser at Durant*
6A: Osceola at King
6A: Hillsborough at Mitchell
5A: Middleton at Bradenton Bayshore
5A: Southeast at Robinson
4A: Berkeley Prep at Lake Placid
4A: Avon Park at Holy Names
3A: Lakeland Christian at Tampa Prep
2A: Cambridge Christian at Bayshore Christian
2A: Keswick Christian at Tampa Bay HEAT
*Steinbrenner plays Friday
Staff writers Matt Baker and Bob Putnam, and correspondents Andy Warrener, Don Jensen and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.