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HUDSON — Anclote was two points from rallying from two games down to force a fifth game against Zephyrhills in Thursday night’s 5A-8 district final.
Then the Bulldogs turned to the server who has led them for the last four years.
Senior libero Sierra Bahr helped Zephyrhills win seven consecutive points to earn the district title with a 25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23 victory at Fivay.
“It was intense,” Bahr said.
Bahr led the Bulldogs (14-7) to easy wins in the first two games. She had five service aces in the first game, and Anclote (11-11) struggled. The Sharks led only once in the first two games — a 2-1 lead in the opening minutes of the match.
But the Sharks tweaked their defense and began attacking more with Mia Lockhart (11 kills). Anclote fell behind 6-1 in the third game before battling back late thanks to a Lockhart ace. The Sharks jumped out to a 23-18 lead in the fourth game when the Bulldogs relaxed.
“We were reeling,” Zephyrhills coach Dan Muir said.
Muir called a timeout to settle his team. He challenged them to win now and for star hitter Kaitlyn Blount to spike when she had the chance.
A long serve gave the Bulldogs the ball, and Bahr took advantage. Bahr, who became a serving specialist during the district tournament during her freshman year, nailed one of her eight service aces for a 24-23 lead.
“I was in the zone,” Bahr said.
So was her team. The Bulldogs sealed the win with a vicious spike by Blount — one of her match-high 16 kills.
5A-7: Sharks seniors add another title
BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast seniors rejoiced in their sweep in the Class 5A, District 7 championship game.
For most of them, the 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 victory over Crystal River signified the third district title in four seasons for the group, and many consider the Sharks favorites to get deep into the postseason.
“It was a great win for us,” captain Courtney Liddle said. “We all know what we’ve accomplished, but we aren’t done yet.”
Nature Coast (23-2) was led by the front-line attack of seniors Courtney Liddle (16 kills) and Courtney Crawford (16 kills, four aces), much as it has been all season. The Sharks had swept Crystal River (16-11) this season, so the homecourt advantage only made it more difficult for the second-seeded Pirates.
In two matches against Crystal River this season the Sharks dropped only one game, but the mantra for this team has been focus. Complacency did not enter the picture.
“From Day One this year, it’s been about going into the match with the right focus,” Nature Coast coach Emily Gore said. “We know if we do that we’ll be fine, and because of this great group of seniors it makes my job extremely easy.”
Michelle Doucet, another senior, was the other cog for the front line. The middle hitter registered five kills and has been a leader for the Sharks.
6A-10: Mitchell can't slow Tarpon's MacGregor
TARPON SPRINGS — Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Snead felt his team was different from Sponger squads he coached early in his career. The seventh-year coach endured early eliminations from district tournaments, and he was determined to build respectability.
The culture change at Tarpon is complete after sweeping Mitchell 25-15, 25-14, 25-12 Thursday to win the Class 6A, District 10 title.
“This is what every coach coaches for, is little things like this and say that we’re district champs,” Snead said. “You hear about the football team being district champs, but you never hear about the volleyball team.”
Tarpon Springs (22-3, 10-0) came out focused, never relinquishing leads in the first two games. Sophomore Kelsi Collins ended Game 1 with her signature teardrop kill, bolstering the team’s confidence.
“More fans came in and the whole school supports us,” said Collins, who finished with 15 digs. “We really wanted to win this for the team and for Snead because he hasn’t won one, so we really wanted to win it for him.”
Up 9-4 during Game 3, Ashlyn MacGregor caught fire, scoring five of the Spongers’ next six points — four of which were kills. Mitchell (16-9, 6-4) couldn’t counter MacGregor or her game-high 24 kills.
“We usually get knocked out of the first or second round of districts, but being able to go all the way through and win, it feels like our hard work finally paid off,” MacGregor said.
3A-8: ’Canes swept away
At Spring Hill, Bishop McLaughlin’s quest for its first district title fell short in a three-game sweep, 25-10 25-21, 25-4, by Tampa Prep.
The Hurricanes (16-8) couldn’t stop Terrapin junior Katie Krueger (20 kills on 36 attempts) or Tampa Prep’s services. Senior Lauren Shlemon and sophomore Claire Blumenthal each had seven of the Terrapins’ 22 aces. Freshman Ariana Mosley, in fact, had four consecutive aces to close out the match.
Tampa Prep earned the first district title for coach Jessica Lamm, who played for Bishop coach Doug Chinchar when he was at Gaither.
The Hurricanes — three years removed from a two-win season — will continue their best run in school history in next week’s regionals.
6A-6: Eagles eke out first title
Lecanto pushed Springstead to the edge before the Eagles prevailed 22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13 at West Port for its first district championship. After a Panther error tied Game 5, Marie Buckley’s soft shot at the net eluded a pair of blocking defenders, but found the floor just wide of the sideline for a 14-13 Springstead (21-5) lead. Carly Wiggins’ kill from Allyson Schillinger (37 assists) finished it off.
Correspondents Derek J. LaRiviere and Basil Spyridakos contributed to this report, which used information from the Citrus County Chronicle.