TAMPA — They were flat. Then they were fighters. In the end, however, it was futile.
No matter how much the Wiregrass Ranch Bulls bucked up against a night that clearly wasn’t theirs, no matter how many comebacks they attempted, Jasmyn Perry was still there, soaring and swinging until Freedom finished them off in a 25-16, 28-26, 22-25, 25-17 win in the Class 7A, District 9 semifinals Tuesday night at Gaither.
The win was the Patriots’ first over Wiregrass Ranch in three tries this season, and snapped a six-game winning streak for the Bulls, who entered as the district’s hottest team.
But Perry cooled them off, and quickly. Behind the high-flying senior, and junior Ashley Wilson, the Patriots (16-10) scored the first 12 points and led 16-2 before the Bulls even looked warmed up.
Opening the first game was a problem for the Bulls. An inability to close out the second proved fatal.
The Bulls (17-6) controlled the second with a strong service game and some big kills from Grace Olsen. They even had some good fortune as a dig that sailed toward the ceiling redirected off a pipe, giving them a 23-22 edge. But a service error tied it, and the Bulls could not even the game despite match-point leads of 24-23 and 25-24.
Olsen tied things at 26-all with a crosscourt kill, but Perry answered with a kill of her own, and the Bulls hit into the net on the next point to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead.
Despite winning the third game to stay alive, the Bulls didn’t have the fire to finish.
“It felt good winning,” said setter Teddi Wright, “but it felt tough. We were just a little flat.”
Perry took over the final game. She had five kills in the first 10 points, and even when she made a mistake — passing too close to the net — the ball managed to trickle over and tie up the Bulls.
She finished with 21 kills.
“She was on fire, I’m not going to tell you any different,” Wiregrass coach Melinda Kantor said. “She single-handedly won them their games, there’s no doubt about that.”
Wilson added nine kills for the Patriots, who will meet Steinbrenner, a 25-17, 25-14, 25-11 winner over Chamberlain, in the district championship Thursday.
Class 3A-8: Fourth-seeded Bishop McLaughlin rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth game before falling to No. 1 seed Tampa Prep, 25-20, 25-16, 20-25, 22-25, 15-6 in the semifinals at Tampa Prep.
“That match right there, that should have been the final match,” Hurricanes coach Douglas Chinchar said.
Bishop (16-8) looked headed for an early exit Tuesday before rallying in the third. Sophomore Casey McColl’s setting helped turn the game, and sophomore Alyssa Mathis battled Tampa Prep’s D-I recruit, Katie Krueger, point for point.
“It was like a college matchup, with those two going at it,” Chinchar said.
The Terrapins pulled away in the fifth, when Krueger’s serving seized control and helped Tampa Prep end Bishop’s season for the second year in a row.
Class 2A-8: Academy at the Lakes’ season ended with a hard-fought 25-19, 29-27, 25-22 loss to No. 2 seed Bayshore Christian in the semifinals at Citrus Park Christian.
“It wasn’t that we gave it away or they took it away,” first-year Wildcats coach Brian Gonzales said. “They took two or three more points than we did.”
Maria Aumaitre led AATL (9-11) with 28 digs. Senior Brooke Portriacio (17 kills, 12 digs), and juniors Lauren Evans (14 kills, seven blocks) and Brenna Walton (eight kills, five blocks) also had strong performances.
Hernando Christian also fell in the semis with a four-set loss to top-seeded Cambridge Christian.
HCA (12-12) had to bring up eighth-grader Mallory Jernigan because of an illness on the varsity team, but Jernigan was one of the team’s top performers. Nicole Klukowski led the Lions with six kills, and Emily Hethorn added at least two kills.
“We played pretty well tonight,” Lions coach Stacy Hethorn said.
Class 4A-6: A night after winning the school’s first district tournament game, Weeki Wachee’s season ended with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-17 semifinal loss to top-seeded Ocala Trinity Catholic.
“They played their hearts out,” Hornets coach Kelly Werkmeister said.
But the Hornets (3-22) couldn’t compete against a loaded Trinity team. Danielle Burke and Alyssa Cupeles each had eight assists, and Halie Werkmeister added 10 kills and 11 digs.
Match of the night
Hernando fought back from a 2-0 hole to drop a heart-breaking Class 5A, District 7 volleyball semifinal to No. 1 seed Crystal River, 25-20, 27-25, 20-25, 23-25, 15-11.
“I thought we had them,” Leopards coach Patty Martin said.
Hernando (12-10) took momentum into the fifth game at Eustis before falling behind for good. The Leopards’ return game stumbled, and a few mental mistakes made the difference in the defeat.
Senior Ashley Sims led a balanced team effort with 14 kills and three blocks, while Layci Martin chipped in 20 assists, and Kendall Raney recorded eight aces.
“This was the team I’ve been waiting for all season,” Martin said.
Alyssa Mathis, Bishop McLaughlin: Standout sophomore totaled 26 kills and seven blocks against Tampa Prep.
Rachel Allen, Academy at the Lakes: Senior setter finished her career with 33 assists.
Kaitlyn Jones, Hernando: Missing players forced the Leopards to move the sophomore all over the court, and she responded with one of the best games of her career.
Grace Olsen, Wiregrass Ranch: Junior outside hitter led the Bulls with 13 kills in a loss to Freedom.
By the numbers
6 Wins for Zephyrhills’ volleyball team after sweeping Wesley Chapel in the Class 5A, District 8 quarterfinal. Two of the Bulldogs’ wins have come against the Wildcats
1 Seniors graduating from the volleyball teams at Bishop McLaughlin (Hannah Nyberg) and Hernando Christian (Holly Field)
3 Consecutive shutout victories for Anclote volleyball, which swept Gulf in the Class 5A, District 8 quarterfinals
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.