MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
RIVERVIEW — In a match full of furious momentum shifts, Riverview was just three points from arguably its biggest win in program history.
After rallying from two games to one and trailing in the decisive fifth game 10-3, the Sharks’ season ended Tuesday night with a 18-25, 25-13, 27-25, 19-25, 15-12 loss to Lakeland at home in the Class 7A region quarterfinal.
“There will be tears shed,” Sharks second-year coach Kristin Grosso said. “We’re fighters, whether we were up or down.”
The Sharks held a 12-11 lead in the fifth game, the last of several Riverview comebacks, but Lakeland scored the final five points.
“When you’re on that high, you have to complete those points like it’s your last point,” Grosso said. “That’s what you have to do, that’s what you have to do.”
Middle blocker Sarah Burrington, a Florida State recruit, led the Sharks with 26 kills, and junior middle Cassidy Hutchinson added 12 kills. Jenna Cook has 29 digs and setter Jordan Alberts added 49 assists.
For a five-member Riverview (21-9) senior class that sent the program to new highs with back-to-back district titles, this wasn’t the way the season was supposed to end. But a Lakeland team that lost just two players from a squad that went to the state tournament last year proved to have more mettle.
Lakeland senior outside hitter Rachel Martin led the Dreadnaughts with 26 kills and 12 digs, while sophomore Kali Boatwright added 18 kills and 20 digs. Setter Alex Taylor tallied 43 assists and libero Sara Jayne Taylor has 24 digs, four aces and 11 service points.
The Dreadnaughts (20-7) turned the match in the pivotal third game. Lakeland came back from 16-9 deficit to tie at 25 before winning to take a two games to one lead. But Riverview took a back-and-forth fourth game after two key late kills by junior Kiahna Wicks.
“Nothing surprised me tonight,” Lakeland coach Crystal Ramsey said. “We knew they had the ability.”
7A: Patriots' strong effort falls short
CLEARWATER — Clearwater is a fixture in the volleyball postseason, making it to the region quarterfinals for the 15th time in the past 17 seasons.
Freedom is a novice, making just its second playoff appearance in the school’s 10-year history.
The difference in experience showed, at least early their region quarterfinal.
The Tornadoes jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the first game and cruised to victory. The Patriots were competitive in the other three games and even won one. But it was not enough as Clearwater won 25-12, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18 to move on.
“We started out slow in the first game and that might have been nerves coming over here and playing in their gym,” Freedom coach Kerry Short said. “But in Games Two, Three and Four we stayed right with them and fought back. We knew it was going to be tough though, and they have some hitters who can put the ball away.”
The hitter who was the most devastating was Nikki O’Rourke. The senior came up with the crucial points in the crucial moments, finishing with a team-high 19 kills.
“I knew it was going to be tough competition,” O’Rourke said. “We came out strong then had a few ups and downs and made a few errors. But we were able to come together and pull through.”
Clearwater (21-8) had to rally from a 16-13 deficit to win the second game and a 5-2 deficit to win the fourth. Each time O’Rourke ignited the comeback with a service ace or kill.
Hannah Kaczmarek had 17 kills and Jasmyn Perry added 10 to lead the Patriots.
7A: Steinbrenner gaining steam
LUTZ — When the referee motioned for Steinbrenner’s service to open the Class 7A region quarterfinal, senior Miranda Powell responded with four straight serves that ended with a hop and commanding topspin.
Powell’s opening 4-0 run, complete with two aces and two Madison Seuzeneau kills, proved to be a microcosm of how the Warriors’ night would go as Steinbrenner swept Seminole 25-15, 25-16, 25-18.
Despite notching 34 kills and 10 aces over the three games, the Warriors saw room for improvement.
“We grade each other every night, and we gave each other a C-minus,” Steinbrenner coach Jennifer Graham said. “We think we can play better.”
Seuzeneau, who recorded 16 of those 30 kills, echoed her coach’s statement.
“Next week we’re going to have to play better than what we just showed,” said Seuzeneau, who consistently hit the back and side lines with her spikes and graded her individual performance as “pretty good.” “I know I made a couple of errors here and there that will count as big points starting next week.”
The Warriors (24-4) were able to jump on the Warhawks (13-11) early in the second and third games thanks to strong serving that kept Seminole off balance and shifting its serve-receive pattern. In the second game it was sophomore Rachel Mathison who keyed a 6-0 opening run, and freshman Lauren Heldt went on a 9-0 run — complete with seven aces — in the early stages of the third game to put Steinbrenner ahead 10-2.
“She’s getting really good at placing (her serves),” Graham said. “She has a great snap, and that’s what makes her ball troublesome to other teams, because it drops at the very last second.”
The Warriors had a 22-11 lead in the final game, but a series of miscommunication let Seminole creep back in and go on a 4-1 run to make the score 23-16 before Graham called a timeout. Freshman Avery Bradshaw responded with a kill on the ensuing rally, and Steinbrenner closed out the game 25-18 to advance to the region semifinals for the second straight season.
7A: Raiders' season comes to close
Plant City’s season came to a quick end with a three-game loss to Lakeland George Jenkins, 25-10, 25-14, 25-14.
Noelle Dietrich led the Raiders (8-8) with four kills and Alex Arnold added two. Makensie Mcavoy led Plant City with 19 digs and Amy Booher had nine assists.
“We really hustled this year,” first-year Plant City coach Liz Casto said. “We really did well in the beginning of the season and in the end it got lost a bit. These girls have given a lot.”
5A: Robinson ends 33-year skid
TAMPA — The dubious streak is over.
Robinson (18-10) ended 33 years of frustration, winning its first region game since 1978 by defeating Southeast 26-28, 25-11, 25-21, 22-25, 15-9 in a 5A quarterfinal.
“We didn’t want to just settle for being better than last year’s team,” outside hitter Kathryn Hogan (nine kills, 14 digs) said. “We set our sights higher.”
Trailing 8-6 in the fifth game, coach Ryan Wheatley called a timeout to refocus his young group that features just three seniors.
“I told them it was their game to win,” Wheatley said. “And to leave everything out on the court because otherwise there was no tomorrow.”
Robinson went on a 4-0 spurt from that point, a stretch that featured a power spike down the middle by Crystal Ortiz to give the Knights the lead for good. Robinson finished it off with a 9-1 run to touch off a wild celebration.
Alexandria Gaertner finished with a team-high 14 kills, Ortiz added 12 and Melissa Weathers led the Knights with six aces.
“(Gaertner) absolutely played out of her mind,” Wheatley said.
5A: Longhorns overmatched
ST. PETERSBURG — After every match, Lakewood outside hitter Berkley Whaley ices down her right shoulder. She especially needed that ice Tuesday night.
Whaley and her Spartans teammates overpowered Lennard in a Class 5A regional 25-9, 25-2, 25-14. Whaley, who orally committed to Florida, had nine kills and as many blocks in a dominant performance against the Longhorns.
“We didn’t know anything about (Lennard) when they walked into our gym,” Whaley said. “But it didn’t matter how good they were, we still had to play to our potential. We did that in the first and second games, but we let up a little in the third game.”
Lakewood (18-8) wasted no time jumping out to a lead. The Spartans scored the first five points and led 10-1. A string of Whaley and Kim McEntergart serves, as well as kills by Leigh Buttner and Sarah Donnelly, helped widen the gap to 21-6. Fittingly, the first game was closed out by a Whaley block.
“I read an article about (Lakewood) in the district final and it said the other team didn’t show up to block,” Lennard coach Lisa Subdon said. “Neither did we.”
With Lennard (5-11) showing little presence at the net, Lakewood pounded spikes and blocks as well as aces throughout the second game. Whaley and Zora Wells were too much for the Lennard front line.
Lennard showed some pride in the third game. After trailing 9-3 the Longhorns fought back to 14-10, aided by Lakewood errors. Spartans coach Sean O’Flannery called timeout to have a talk with his team.
“I wasn’t happy,” O’Flannery said. “They started having a lot of errors. That’s when the coach gives the threat of an all-day cardiovascular practice if they don’t play well. They came out a little more focused.”
Lakewood gave up only four points the rest of the way. The game ended on two aces from Wells.
3A: Tampa Prep sweeps despite slow start
TAMPA — As part of her birthday celebration, legendary former Tampa Prep coach Carol Chalu stopped by the court that bears her name Tuesday evening and took in 54 minutes of nostalgia.
Which is to say, Chalu witnessed a scenario she had overseen literally hundreds of times before: a brisk, workmanlike Terrapins triumph.
With four freshmen in their rotation, the Terps overcame shaky starts in the first two games to post a 25-14, 25-16, 25-7 victory against Lakeland Christian (15-11) in the Class 3A region quarterfinals.
Tampa Prep (15-11) faces Bishop McLaughlin in next week’s semifinals, when first-year coach Jessica Lamm hopes her team can establish itself a bit earlier.
On Tuesday, the Terps trailed 7-6 in Game 1 before embarking on an 8-0 spurt, and overcame a 10-7 Game 2 deficit with a 10-3 run.
“I think that’s one thing about us. Because we’re young, you could tell they were a little nervous starting off the games,” Lamm said. “But they settled down and really focused on low errors, so I was happy with that. But we’ve definitely got to get those jitters out early.”
Six-foot-2 junior Katie Krueger led Tampa Prep with 15 kills as the Terps dominated across the net. Senior setter Lauren Shlemon had five aces, while senior Nikki Cardoso added eight digs.
2A: Familiar rematch on tap in next round
Cambridge and Bayshore Christian will meet for the fourth time this season in the Class 2A region semifinals after both teams claimed three-set victories Tuesday night.
Cambridge beat Lakeland Victory Christian 25-22, 25-19, 25-18. The Lancers were led by Olivia Yeager’s 11 kills and 17 digs. Caitlin Carr added six kills with 11 digs for the Lancers (20-8)
Bayshore Christian (21-7) beat Winter Haven All Saints’ 25-22, 25-11, 25-17. Freshman Marie Kelly led the Faith Warriors with 18 kills and senior Maddy Schmitt added 16 mills. Nadia Hall has 35 assists and Erin Caplinger added 10 digs.
The teams have played three times — 14 sets total — with Cambridge winning twice.
“It will be interesting,” Lancers coach Dave Walcott said, “especially having played each other so many times and knowing each other so well. “It’s like playing your sister.”
Compiled by staff writers Joey Knight, Eduardo A. Encina, Bob Putnam, Laura Keeley and Rodney Page and correspondent Brandon Wright.