TAMPA — Academy of the Holy Names took an early lead in the first set of its Class 4A region quarterfinal against Avon Park on Wednesday. But as soon as the Jaguars hit their stride, the Red Devils began to creep back in.
With three quick kills in a four-point span, Becca Prossen immediately put a stop to that. Prossen finished the night with 11 kills and three aces to help lead Holy Names to a 25-19, 25-19, 25-22 win.
“The sets were great by Jen (Aprile), and I was able to swing hard,” Prossen said about her performance.
Holy Names fell behind 4-2 early in the first set, but a Courtney Vogler kill gave AHN a 5-4 lead it wouldn’t lose. The Red Devils scored four of the first five points in the second to take another early lead, but an AHN ace followed by a Prossen kill gave the Jaguars their first lead, 7-6.
The Jaguars’ advancement was never quite in jeopardy Wednesday. Still, at times when her team needed a pick-me-up, Prossen was there to provide it.
“She lifts everybody up,” said Vogler, who led AHN with 12 kills. “Somehow she just gives you that energy that no one else can really give you.”
With some of its starters on the bench, Holy Names struggled to finish the third set, letting Avon Park bounce back after trailing 20-10. Vogler eventually had the winning kill.
Holy Names will play Berkeley Prep in Tuesday’s region semifinal, a rematch of last week’s district title game.
Holy Names’ dominant win against Avon Park got the Jaguars started on the right foot for their first playoff run in two years. Prossen’s big swings, coach Jeff Davis said, certainly helped.
With attention-grabbing outside hitters on his squad, Davis knows it might be easy for players like Prossen to be overlooked by opponents.
“I’m sure some other people, sometimes they see her and are like ‘Wow, we weren’t expecting that,’ ” he said. “But we certainly are.”
8A: Bulls sweep champ
BRADENTON — Bloomingdale swept district champion Manatee 25-22, 25-14, 25-23 in Wednesday’s Class 8A quarterfinal.
Bulls junior Karissa Rhoades, who finished with 20 kills and 17 digs, had the clinching kill in Game 3.
The Hurricanes owned their first lead of the night in the final game, going up 13-11 on consecutive kills by Jacqui Armer, before the Bulls (18-10) rallied for four straight points and never relinquished the lead.
Bulls coach Margeaux Sinibaldi said the team did its homework by scouting and game-planning for Manatee. But she threw all the credit to her players, including Chelsea Chavers, who finished with 15 digs.
“If you don’t execute, it does not matter,” said Sinibaldi, whose team improved to 18-10. “Those points that we won on scrappy plays is what keeps you in games and wins games. It’s huge.
“We wanted to win a district title. We didn’t win a district title, but a regional championship is a little bit better than that. So this win is huge for them.”
8A: Big plays elude Plant
TAMPA — If Palm Harbor University was going to pull off a minor upset at Plant in the Class 8A region quarterfinal Tuesday, it needed help from just about everyone on the floor.
As usual, Naomi Mack came through with kills in clutch situations and libero Ameije Ismaili dove all around the court keeping points alive.
But players like AnnaMarie Huy, Abby Walker, Emma Strong and Jazmine Barker also came up big in the Hurricanes’ 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 25-22 win. PHU (20-8) will play Bloomingdale on Tuesday. Plant ends its season 17-7.
“Every one of us picked up our game,” said Huy, who had a team-high 15 kills. “We knew that we were a better team all around. We practiced to go to states and we knew that this was a big game to carry us to states.”
Palm Harbor U. took the first game thanks to clutch play down the stretch. Tied at 22-all, Mack had a tip and a kill that made it 24-22. One point later, Strong had a kill to end the game.
Mack ended the match with 13 kills. Strong added eight.
In the second game, Plant survived a hot PHU start, then put together a 5-1 run in the middle to take a 17-10 lead. The Hurricanes tried to chip away, but the game ended with a kill by Kyuana King to even the match.
Huy took over in the third game. She had seven kills and two blocks to help PHU go up 2-1. In the fourth game, the Hurricanes led 17-16 when they went on a 4-0 run to gain some distance. Plant roared back to tie it at 21 behind a kill and two blocks from Katherine Gabler.
But Mack came up with a block and a kill for a two-point lead. The game and match ended on a Strong kill and a Plant mishit.
“They really made us earn those points at the end,” PHU coach Tara Kuk said. “It was so much fun to watch and to coach. It was great to see the girls come through in the clutch situations.”
Ismaili was clutch with 22 digs. Walker had 42 assists.
While PHU found a way to finish off games, Plant coach Jessica Lamm was frustrated that her team could not.
“We just lost focus down the stretch, unfortunately,” she said. “We just couldn’t finish off rallies at the end.”
6A: King falls in five
TAMPA — After dropping two of the first three games against King in Wednesday night’s Class 6A region quarterfinal, Osceola feared its season was over.
When the Warriors won the first four points of the fourth game, their concern turned to confidence and, finally, calm.
Osceola dominated the final two sets to topple host King 15-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-12, 15-7. Osceola (13-9) advances to play Mitchell, which swept their three previous meetings.
The Warriors’ second playoff win in the past three years got off to a slow start after losing the first five points and committing 17 errors in the first game against King (16-5).
“We were a little awestruck with the moment,” Osceola coach Ryan Kramer said.
His Warriors’ athleticism — and four aces by senior captain Emily Barton in the second game helped Osceola get back into the match before it dropped the third game. The Warriors didn’t trail much longer. Kayla Chowdhury started the fourth game with one of her eight kills, and three King miscues gave Osceola a 4-0 lead. Momentum shifted on the bench.
“Something clicked,” said Barton, who finished with 17 kills and five aces.
Whatever it was, the Warriors never let it click back. One of Hayley Misewich’s 15 kills extended Osceola’s lead to 16-6 in the fourth, and the Warriors cruised to tie the match.
Barton opened the fifth with a spike that barely landed inside the line, and Chowdhury followed with an ace. After King became frazzled with back-to-back mental errors moments later, Osceola relaxed.
“I think they gained confidence,” Kramer said. “They realized we can actually do this.”
Osceola won four of the final five points, and one more Chowdhury kill sent the Warriors into the second round.
Katie Newman finished with a team-high 29 digs for Osceola, and Misewich added 10.
6A: Terriers toppled
NEW PORT RICHEY — Mitchell was ahead by six points near the end of the fourth set when a coach called timeout. In the stands, a Hillsborough fan clapped his hands and assured other parents the Terriers could rally.
He had reason to hope. After dominating the first set, the Mustangs lagged behind a strong Hillsborough team. They fell in the second set and barely clung on for the first half of the third.
The Mustangs surged back for a decisive win in the third. After the first point, they never surrendered the lead in the fourth, winning 25-12, 22-25, 25-15, 25-20. It was their 19th win in a row.
Coming into the second set, Hillsborough battled for a lead. The Terriers finally seized and kept it until they were four points ahead. Mitchell responded with kills by Daniele Green, Nicole Fletcher and Bailey Sassatelli. The Terriers fought back, though, and won the set with a kill by Jennifer Eng.
Hillsborough gripped that momentum going in the third set, taking the lead at 7-6 and keeping it for several more plays. A kill by Shannon Conner returned the advantage to the Mustangs, and they never let the Terriers come back.
Casey Gonsalves had 14 kills for the Terriers, and Eng had 10.
4A: Bucs back on track
Berkeley Prep coach John Coup didn’t have any long, drawn-out explanation for what the Buccaneers did to rebound from last week’s district disappointment and win their first playoff game of the season.
“We settled down and played our game,” he simply stated.
It’s something, he said, the Bucs got away from at times last week.
Berkeley Prep (20-7) visited Lake Placid on Wednesday, beating the Dragons 25-18, 25-6, 25-10. The Bucs started off slow, Coup said, but soon found their rhythm to dominate the final two sets. Sidney Brown led Berkeley Prep with 19 kills and 10 digs.
The match marked the first time in more than a decade the Bucs have played their first playoff game following a loss. Berkeley dropped the Class 4A, District 10 final to Holy Names.
Coup is convinced the Bucs’ district is one of the best in the state. Being too aggressive, which then led to errors, hurt his team against AHN last week, Coup said. It’s something he hopes the Bucs can fix in the upcoming meeting by doing just what it did against Lake Placid: staying calm and collected.
Though not taking home the district title was a letdown, Coup said it taught his team a lesson it used in its first postseason game and beyond.
“Sometimes when you lose, it helps you gain back that focus, that hunger,” he said. “It makes us have to be ready at the first whistle and not let up until the last whistle.”
Photo: Mitchell's Daniele Green spikes the ball past Hillsborough's Alex Lutton, left, and Abi Etchene.
Staff writers Rodney Page, Matt Baker and Mary Kenney contributed to this report, which used information from the Herald.