DUNEDIN — It had been 22 years since Dunedin advanced to a region quarterfinal, so waiting an extra 30 minutes for Lennard to show up Wednesday was no big deal. Once the Longhorns arrived, the Falcons wasted little time sending them back on the bus.
Dunedin jumped out early and never trailed in a 25-5, 25-11, 25-14 win. The Falcons (12-7) will host Robinson on Tuesday.
“We wanted to start off fast against Lennard,” Dunedin middle hitter Katie Will said. “We start off pretty slow and sometimes we lose the first game. We didn’t want to do that this time. We needed to come out strong against this team.”
That’s exactly what the Falcons did.
Lennard hung around early and trailed 5-4 in the first game. Then Dunedin stepped on the gas and scored the next 17 points. During the run, Will had five kills, Hannah Welsh added three more kills and Allie Williams served all 17 points.
“It seems like we’ve been starting like that a lot this year,” said Lennard coach Elise Garza, who joined the team at midseason. “We start off slowly and then eventually work our way up. We came right off the bus and it took us a while to get into the mentality that we’re playing a match.”
In the second game the Falcons scored the first six points then held an 8-2 lead. After the Longhorns cut it to 10-5, Dunedin scored nine of the next 10. The game ended with Dunedin scoring the last four points, including three straight kills by Welsh.
“Katie and Hannah have been our go-to girls all year,” first-year Dunedin coach Kassy Will said. “We tried to get some other girls into the flow in this game. They all played very well.”
The Falcons took all the drama out of the third game by scoring the first eight points. Lennard made a run in the middle of the game by scoring four straight points, but Welsh and Will at the net proved to be too much.
“Our girls haven’t given up all season,” Kassy Will said. “We came back against Lakewood and won and it just carried over to this game. We haven’t been here in 22 years so they are proud of how far they’ve gotten but they don’t want it to end.”
7A: Clearwater breezes past Freedom
CLEARWATER — There were some tense moments Wednesday when Clearwater had to rally. But it was never enough to put the match — or even a game — in jeopardy.
For the second straight year, the Tornadoes dispatched Freedom in the Class 7A region quarterfinals with a 25-13, 25-22, 26-24 victory.
But Clearwater fully expected to be extended, especially after going four games against the Patriots last year.
“I came in with the conviction that it could go four or five games,” Tornadoes coach Kara Betourne said. “You never really expect a region match to be over in three games. But they were ready to play.”
In the first game, Clearwater (21-7) took control late with crisp passes and dominant play at the net.
The second and third games were not as easy. Freedom went ahead 9-4 in the second and did not relinquish the lead until the Tornadoes came up with a few big kills to go ahead 14-13. The game stayed within two points until Clearwater’s Allie Russell recorded a kill for the final point.
The Patriots had a 22-20 lead in the third game but could not find a way to close it out. Twice, the Tornadoes tied it. Then Clearwater scored the final two points.
Sara Myslicki led the Tornadoes with 13 kills. Teammate Samantha Reeves had nine kills and three blocks.
“We didn’t know it would be such a quick match and be done in three games,” Myslicki said. “But we practiced hard, we’re prepared and really came together in the first game.”
Jasmyn Perry was the big hitter for Freedom, recording a team-high 15 kills.
“Clearwater is a good team,” Patriots coach Kerry Short said. “We came out flat in the first game and started to pick up momentum after that. It just wasn’t enough.”
7A: Mistakes mount for Green Devils
LUTZ — Three to one. Four to two. Five to four.
Quickly shaking off the effects of a two-hour trip across Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg improbably got off to a strong start against Steinbrenner in their region quarterfinal match.
It didn’t last long; the bus ride turned out to be longer than the match.
Within a few plays, Steinbrenner took control and never again relinquished the lead in a surprisingly dominating 3-0 victory Wednesday over the Green Devils. The Warriors won 25-15, 25-22, 25-19, improving their home record to 8-0 this fall.
“We never thought it’d be this easy,” Steinbrenner outside hitter Madison Seuzeneau said.
The Warriors (18-8) advanced to the region semifinals for the third consecutive year.
After playing to a 9-9 tie early in the first set, the Warriors quickly pulled away from St. Petersburg (20-9). They scored eight of the final nine points, capitalizing on the Green Devils’ mistakes and getting the set-clinching kill from sophomore Avery Bradshaw.
The Green Devils failed to pull even again, several times thwarting promising runs with serving errors and sideouts.
“We just had too many errors and then that lead got too big,” St. Petersburg coach Alexandra Sevillano said. “And once you get that spread, you lose a little bit of your aggressiveness and confidence and we never got our rhythm back after that.”
St. Petersburg finished with its first winning season in more than a half-dozen years and hadn’t advanced past its district tournament since 2008.
5A: Ailing Lakewood comes up short
TAMPA — Robinson didn’t have much experience with comeback victories this season, but the Knights picked a good time to figure out how to score one.
Trailing 13-11 in the fifth game, Robinson won the final four points to edge Lakewood 22-25, 25-13, 26-24, 23-25, 15-13 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
“We’re not used to this,” said Knights junior Lauren Peterson. “In our district the matches weren’t close. Going into that fifth game tonight I had no idea how it would go.”
She wasn’t alone. Neither team was able to take control of the match for very long. Even when the Knights (17-9) won back-to-back games they did so with an improbable rally.
Lakewood looked poised to go up 2-1, leading 21-14 in the third game. Robinson, however, went on a run to lead 23-22. Just as Lakewood looked rattled, senior Leigh Buttner hit back, putting the Spartans ahead with a kill and an ace — only to have Robinson answer with the final three points.
The short-handed Spartans pretty well controlled the fourth game but, after they were up 24-20, saw Robinson get the next three points. Buttner’s smash ended the threat and forced a fifth game.
That one was full of drama. Kimmy McEntegart had three assists but also made two points on crafty push shots for an 11-10 lead, and Buttner’s kill after a long rally made the score 13-11.
Two points from victory, Lakewood (11-10) sent two shots awry then let Peterson’s long serve go — and it landed about a foot inside the back line for a 14-13 Knights advantage. Lakewood was unable to get the next Peterson serve back and the match was over.
Peterson’s twin Alexandra had 26 digs. Lauren only had one hitting error compared to 17 kills, seven coming in the fourth game. Kylee Gorngpratum contributed 30 assists for the Knights.
Lakewood was without starters Manuela Tascon and Treniece Green, who became sick Tuesday and were unable to make the trip.
“We left everything out there,” said Buttner, who went out swinging with 15 kills. “I’m so proud to leave, with this being my last match.”
Sam Roberts, one of several Spartans who had to play out of position, was second on the team with 10 kills.
This was just the Knights’ second region victory since the school won a state title in 1978. This season Robinson never dropped a game in district play and only went to five games twice.
3A: Marauders sweep
CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic bounced back from a near first-set loss to beat Out-of-Door 26-24, 25-14, 25-11.
Christy Moore and Shea Hamilton combined for 16 kills while Casey Moore added 18 assists. But Clearwater Central almost let Game 1 slip away after blowing a nine-point lead and allowing the Thunder to tie at 24.
“I was worried they would overlook this team,” said Marauders coach Steven Shepherd. “We were up 19-11, but we let them get back in the match. It was our own errors that did it, along with not being efficient with the ball. But I thought we cleaned it up the next two games.”
A missed serve on Out-of-Door’s side gave CCC the advantage, and a missed volley later sealed the first-set win. From there, CCC (22-7) made easy work of the Thunder (12-10).
It wasn’t just kills and assists coming from the Moore sisters, but blocks as well with Katie and Christy Moore scoring four each.
“Katie’s great at the net and she’s aggressive,” Shepherd said. “Christy is the most cerebral player we’ve had in a long time, and it’s just like having a second coach out there.”
CCC hosts Calvary Christian next in a rematch of the district final.
“It’s going to be all about ball control for us,” Shepherd said. “The better ball control we have, the better we can be. We have a lot of offensive weapons, and we just have to be smart in how we use them.”
3A: Calvary survives five-game test
Calvary Christian set up a rematch with Clearwater Central Catholic after a 25-16, 25-21, 22-25, 12-25, 17-15 nailbiter on the road against Bradenton St. Stephen’s. The Warriors (20-8) lost to the Marauders 3-1 in the Class 3A-9 district final and during the regular season.
Staff writers Bob Putnam and Joel Anderson, and correspondents Darek Sharp and Michael Hinman contributed this report.