SPRING HILL — Bishop McLaughlin avenged a five-game loss to Carrollwood Day earlier this month when it mattered most.
The Hurricanes (16-7) rallied from a 2-0 hole to advance to the Class 3A, District 8 final with a 16-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-14, 15-13 win over the Patriots on Tuesday night.
“We didn’t panic,” Bishop coach Douglas Chinchar said.
Even though the Hurricanes had several chances to do so.
Bishop dropped the first two games and fell behind early in the third. It trailed 14-13 but rallied thanks to a few Patriots’ errors and back-to-back kills from Andrea Niggenbrugge and Laura Vien.
Carrollwood Day took a 6-0 lead in the fourth game before the Hurricanes battled back again.
Senior Jessica Johnson — a Norfolk State commit — spiked the ball on consecutive points to seize momentum.
“When you have one of those kids, it makes coaches’ jobs a little easier,” Chinchar said.
The back-and-forth deciding game featured six ties before a Patriots error and kills from Johnson and Sara Morrison put the Hurricanes ahead for good. Johnson sealed the win with her 24th kill to finish off a two-point victory in the final game and keep Bishop’s best season ever alive.
The Hurricanes are three years removed from a two-victory season and can clinch their first district title Thursday.
Bishop McLaughlin will play Tampa Prep, which used 15 kills from Katie Krueger to breeze to a 25-11, 25-14, 25-17 win over Seffner Christian.
5A-7: Sharks sail into next round
BROOKSVILLE — For the sixth consecutive season Nature Coast has qualified for the state playoffs, thanks to a convincing win in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals Tuesday.
In what has become a heated rivalry, the Sharks swept Hernando 25-14, 25-17, 25-21.
Nature Coast (22-2), which is enjoying its best campaign in school history, didn’t hesitate as it jumped out to a lead in the first game.
“This win was a must,” Nature Coast captain Courtney Liddle said. “Beating Hernando means everything to us, and to move on for a chance to make it three (district titles) out of four (years), that’s what we’ve wanted all along.”
Led by Liddle and Courtney Crawford, it was only a matter of time before the Sharks went on a run to end the match. Crawford, a Hernando transfer, was crucial to the attack throughout the night, accruing 14 kills and one ace.
“When you’ve got Crawford on the front row, (Liddle and she) complement each other so well,” Nature Coast coach Emily Gore said.
Liddle, the senior captain, had a match high in kills (19) and aces (four), but unforced errors were really the Leopards’ undoing.
Hernando (14-11) stayed in it with tough defense that created rallies, but more often than not the finish to these long plays was a shot into the net or out of bounds by a Leopards player. Remi Manuel (nine kills) and Ebone Plummer (six) had solid games for the fourth seed.
Nature Coast will move on to face Crystal River. The third-seeded Pirates upset Tavares in the first semifinal in five games. Down 2-1 in the match, Crystal River rallied to dominate the final game 15-4.
6A-6: Seniors have Eagles on right path
SPRING HILL — Springstead is one step closer to its ultimate goal: the state final four.
With a victory over Central in the Class 6A, District 6 semifinals, the Eagles clinched a berth in the state playoffs, but the sweep (25-8, 25-12, 25-14) is only the first stop on the road to where this team wants to go.
“One thing I’ve been trying to get through to this team is that we have bigger goals than districts,” Springstead coach Tim Harris said. “Every opponent is in the way of our goal, and each game we play is a step toward getting to there.”
The senior-laden squad dominated Central (6-20) from the start as Carly Wiggins (match-high 10 kills) and Allyson Schillinger (27 assists) led the way.
“It’s always helpful when you have eight seniors,” Harris said. “Our goal from the very beginning of the season is to get to the final four, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
After putting away its county rival, Springstead (20-5) set its sights on Thursday’s final against Lecanto at West Port in Ocala.
2A-8: AATL puts up a fight before ouster
After dispatching their Class 2A-8 semifinal opponents Tuesday, Cambridge and Bayshore Christian will face each other in Thursday’s rubber-match district final.
Top-seeded Cambridge overcame a sluggish start to beat Academy at the Lakes 16-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-10.
“We were probably looking past our opponent a little,” Cambridge coach Dave Walcott said.
Lancers senior Olivia Yeager had 16 kills and senior Caitlin Carr tallied 17 digs for Cambridge (17-8).
Meanwhile, Bayshore Christian (19-7) made quick work of Tampa Bay Christian 25-12, 25-16, 25-10.
7A-9: Bulls don’t bow out of tourney quietly
Freedom, the No. 2 seed heading into its Class 7A-9 district semifinal against Wiregrass Ranch, split the first two games before pulling away to beat the Bulls 25-13, 22-25, 25-15, 25-20. The Patriots were lead by sophomore Hannah Kaczmarek and her 20 kills.
Compiled by staff writer Matt Baker and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere.