SEMINOLE — The one thing Seminole coach Dexter Rogers wanted to see from his team in Wednesday night’s Class 7A, District 9 semifinal against East Lake was consistency. But after the Warhawks wasted a first-game lead and fell behind, Rogers had to give his team a stern pep talk.
Seminole fought back to defeat the Eagles 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10 to advance to the district final tonight at 7. No. 2 Seminole (19-9) will play top seed Clearwater, which defeated No. 4 Countryside 25-18, 25-7, 25-16.
“I don’t like the fact that sometimes we’re up here and sometimes we’re down there,” Rogers said. “We can’t do that against a good team like East Lake. It was nice to see them put together a couple good games in a row.”
East Lake misses out on a postseason appearance for the first time since 2006.
The first game looked like it would be one of those good games. Seminole jumped out to an 8-1 lead. But behind the serving of MaKenzie Powers, East Lake went on a 12-0 run and never trailed again.
“You can’t do that at any level,” Rogers said. “… But our girls decided to play a full match and give a good effort. The sets got better, the passes got better, the hitters got better. We started serving to better areas. It was a total team effort.”
Indeed, Seminole put it together in the second game. Tied at 5, the Warhawks rattled off seven straight points behind kills from Samantha Schlesman and Ashley Hughes, aided by some East Lake errors.
The lead stayed steady until the Eagles scored five straight to cut the lead to 23-21. But Ali Arango’s kill and a tip out by East Lake ended the second game.
East Lake (15-12) won a close game in the third and Seminole matched it in the fourth, setting up a fifth game. The Warhawks benefited from three kills from Schlesman to jump out to a 9-3 lead. She finished with 17 kills.
The Eagles would not go away and cut the lead to 13-10. But the match ended on a kill by Amanda Mitchell and an East Lake spike in the net.
“We had some really great serves to start that game and that gives us momentum,” senior captain Alia Davis said. “We were really able to focus in that game.”
This was the third meeting between Seminole and East Lake. They split matches in the regular season.
“Today was the rubber match,” Davis said. “It kind of separated the boys from the men, so to speak.”
Unlike Seminole, Clearwater (24-5) did not have much difficulty against Countryside. Samantha Reeves led the way with 19 kills in the sweep. Countryside kept it close in the first game. The Cougars (17-9) led 15-13, but the Tornadoes scored nine of the next 10 points to distance themselves.
The second and third games were all Clearwater behind Reeves, Allie Russell, Maddie Rubino and Haley Barrett.