CLEARWATER — With a regional appearance on the line Wednesday, St. Petersburg freshman middle hitter Kaylan Markese wanted the ball. The Green Devils were in a fifth and deciding game against Seminole in a Class 7A-10 semifinal and led 14-13.
Sure enough, the set came her way and Markese pounded it home to end a hard-fought 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 13-25, 15-13 win. It was her season-high 17th kill of the match, and it sent St. Petersburg into the district final tonight against No. 1 seed Clearwater.
“It felt so good,” Markese said. “I wanted it so badly. I wanted that final game point to go down.”
Wednesday night’s win is the third straight time the Green Devils (20-7) defeated Seminole (16-11) in five games this season. For much of the night, it looked like St. Petersburg would sweep.
In the first game, St. Petersburg managed to stay narrowly ahead of Seminole. Clinging to a 19-17 lead, the Green Devils scored four of the next five points.
After Seminole won game three thanks to a late 5-0 run, the Warhawks took control in the fourth. Seminole had a 10-0 stretch early and won by 12. That set up the deciding game.
St. Petersburg coach Alex Sevillano had a simple message for her team.
“We just told them to let the bad points go and remain enthusiastic,” Sevillano said. “You can’t play scared or timid. We’re not going to think, we’re just going to go for it.”
No team led by more than three in the fifth game. They traded kills late before Markese was able to end it.
Seminole was led by Peone, who had 11 kills and six aces. St. Petersburg’s Carrington Kilgroe added eight kills.
“That was hard fought for every point for five straight games,” Sevillano said. “We haven’t had that much pressure on us ever.”
In the earlier game, Clearwater (19-8) had little trouble against Countryside, 25-21, 25-13, 25-16. It was their third straight win over the Cougars and second straight sweep.
6A-10: Tarpon gets Mitchell matchup
TRINITY — Tarpon Springs and Mitchell, as expected, will play for the Class 6A-10 title, but one team had to work much harder to get there.
Host Mitchell withstood a valiant comeback Wednesday by River Ridge, which trailed 2-0 and faced five match points before forcing a fifth game. Mitchell (18-5) won 25-12, 26-24, 24-26, 25-27, 15-7 in a semifinal that lasted two hours, 20 minutes.
“We were shocked they came back like that,” said Mitchell senior Jessika Hester, who took control in the fifth with four kills. “But our attitude changed going into the last game, we knew we could still win it. And then we just played like we usually do.”
Tarpon Springs 6-foot-2 senior Ashlyn MacGregor had 14 saves against Sunlake. The Spongers (21-3) were far from spectacular but got it rolling around the midpoint of a 25-21, 25-10, 25-11 victory.
The Seahawks (8-19) put a brief scare into the Spongers, coming from 20-15 down to lead 21-20. But Sunlake committed five straight errors.
“They had nothing to lose and they outscrapped us in the first game,” said Tarpon coach Patrick Sneed. “But once Ash got going it sparked us, and everything feeds through her.”
Co-captain Kelsi Collins had 11 assists and 13 digs for the top-seeded Spongers.
Times correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.