NEW PORT RICHEY — Mitchell was ahead by six points near the end of the fourth set when a coach called timeout. In the stands, a Hillsborough fan clapped his hands and assured other parents that the Terriers could make a comeback.
He had reason to hope. After dominating the first set, the Mustangs lagged behind a strong Hillsborough team. They fell in the second set and barely clung on for the first half of the third.
“The other team played better,” Mitchell coach Keith Paulk said. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”
The Mustangs surged back for a decisive win in the third. After the first point, they never surrendered the lead in the fourth, winning 25-12, 22-25, 25-15, 25-20.
Mitchell hosts Osceola on Tuesday in the 6A region semifinals. It will be the fourth time the Mustangs have faced the Warriors this season. Mitchell won the first three matchups.
Coming into the second set of Wednesday’s match, Hillsborough battled for a lead. The Terriers finally seized and kept it until they were four points ahead.
Mitchell responded with kills by Daniele Green, Nicole Fletcher and Bailey Sassatelli. The Terriers fought back, though, and won the set with a kill by Jennifer Eng.
Hillsborough gripped that momentum going in the third set, taking the lead at 7-6 and keeping it for several more plays. A kill by Shannon Conner returned the advantage to the Mustangs, and they never let the Terriers come back.
Casey Gonsalves scored three straight kills in the fourth set to cut the Mustang’s advantage to three points. It was the closest the Terriers would come to catching up.
Green led the Mustangs with 17 kills, and Sassatelli had 12. On the other side of the net, Gonsalves had 14 kills, and Eng had 10.
“Nineteen (wins) in a row,” Paulk said with a shrug and a smile. “Somehow they find the way to win.”