Lakewood missed regionals last season for the first time since 2004, but for coach Sean O’Flannery, his own personal streak — including his previous stop at Northeast — dated to 2001.
Tuesday night, however, both the coach and his team clinched a return to the postseason with a 25-13, 25-8, 25-16 win over Dunedin in the Class 5A, District 12 semifinals.
The Spartans (15-8) will host Bradenton Southeast, which beat Bayshore 25-19, 19-25, 25-16, 25-12, on Thursday for the championship.
Berkley Whaley paced the Spartans with 16 kills. When the Falcons tried to focus on Whaley, a University of Florida commitment, the
Spartans were able to set Leigh Buttner on the opposite side. Buttner finished with 11 kills.
“They’re a nice little combination,” O’Flannery said.
Dunedin put up a fight in the third game, trying to stage a rally. But the Spartans were able to pull away with a run of eight straight points, mostly off Buttner’s serve.
8A-8: Eagles, ’Canes meet a fourth time
East Lake’s state title defense began in earnest Tuesday night against North Port.
Well, kind of.
The host Eagles didn’t get much of challenge, coasting to a quick 25-5, 25-10, 25-4 win that took just a little less time than the warmups did.
The victory sets up another meeting with Palm Harbor University. The host Hurricanes defeated Sarasota Riverview 25-10, 25-19, 25-21 in the other semifinal.
The Eagles (16-1) and Hurricanes (19-6) have met three other times this season, with East Lake winning each time.
But PHU is one of only two teams, along with Berkeley Prep, to play five sets with East Lake, and they took a set off the Eagles at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship last week, possibly leaving a glimmer of hope for an upset.
“We would never take them lightly, I can tell you that,” coach Mike Estes said.
The Eagles, who won the Class 5A state title last year and are bidding to become Pinellas County’s first repeat volleyball champion, will be looking for a quick start Thursday.
Estes said that, and a strong serving game are the keys to victory.
When the teams played five sets, the games East Lake lost it never led in, according to Estes. And at the PCAC final, poor serving opened the door for the Hurricanes to win the second game before the Eagles roared back to win the last two by 25-12 scores.
“It’s basically this: if we can play ahead and get our serves in, and I guess this could be said for the rest of the season as well, we will be hard to beat,” Estes said.
2A-9: Tough schedule boosts Crusaders
ST. PETERSBURG — After playing a beefed-up schedule against bigger schools, Canterbury was ready to play against teams its own size in the Class 2A, District 9 tournament.
The Crusaders (17-6) looked polished in Tuesday’s semifinal, sweeping Keswick Christian 25-17, 25-10, 25-8 to advance to Thursday’s final against second seed Sarasota Christian, which rolled over Lakeside Christian 25-19, 25-23, 25-16.
“They were really pumped up and ready to go,” Canterbury coach Kendrea Meyer said. “We’ve played a tough schedule against bigger schools to get us ready for this. Hopefully, that will work out.”
Canterbury started strong and never trailed by more than a point in the first game, finishing on a 7-2 run. The second and third games followed the same pattern.
Keswick (10-14) hung around early before Canterbury capitalized on mistakes and powerful kills to pull away.
Canterbury was led by senior Megan Burgess’ six kills. Kayla Perry and Mansie Hough had four kills each.
3A-9: Golden Eagles, Marauders sweep
Indian Rocks Christian had little problem advancing past Northside Christian 25-16, 25-12, 25-16 in the 3A-9 semifinals. The Eagles (20-7) face Clearwater Central Catholic — a 25-15, 25-21, 25-17 winner over Calvary Christian — in Thursday’s final.
Leading the way for IRC was setter Ashley Llerena’s 25 assists and eight kills. Madi Loebel added nine kills and three blocks, and Marissa Brown had 16 digs.
“Ashley really had a good game all around,” Eagles coach Mark Foster said. “We had a lot of players contribute.”
6A-12: Top seed up next up for Warriors
Osceola took care of business in its 6A-12 semifinal. The Warriors started slowly but eventually swept past Palmetto 25-18, 25-11, 25-16.
Osceola, led (10-7) by middle hitter Katherine Mulroy, will host No. 1 Lakewood Ranch, which crushed Largo 25-8, 25-10, 25-10, in Thursday’s final.
“We kind of struggled early in the first game,” Osceola coach Ryan Kramer said. “But then Katherine got going and we really started to roll from there.”
Compiled by staff writers John C. Cotey and Rodney Page.