CLEARWATER — Sarasota Out-of-Door entered Tuesday’s Class 3A region semifinal as a boisterous bunch with players predicting not only a win against heavily favored Clearwater Central Catholic but a sweep.
The Marauders countered the Thunder’s bark with bite, relying on the power of their frontcourt to cruise to a 25-7, 25-19, 25-14 victory that took a little more than an hour.
CCC will host Fort Myers Evangelical in Saturday’s region final, marking the third straight year the teams have met for the right to advance to the state final four.
Before they could start preparing for that anticipated showdown, the Marauders had to get past Out-of-Door, which came in with heightened hubris, primed to wrestle control away from CCC in the region after a startling upset of Calvary Christian last week.
Instead, the Marauders were the Marauders. Outside hitters Shea Hamilton and Rachel Odell smacked the ball with force. And Katie Moore continued to be an intimidating force in the middle. The Thunder, meanwhile, looked confused, at least at the start of match.
“We all saw that Sarasota Out-of-Door was doing a lot of talking in the papers,” Hamilton said. “We don’t do that. We let our play do it for us. We just went out there and took care of business.”
In the first game, CCC did not beat the Thunder so much as decimated it. Of Out-of-Door’s seven points, four came off service errors by the Marauders. Things were going so right for CCC that Hamilton saved a ball with an awkward shot that touched down just inside the back line on the opposite of the court for the final point.
About the only glitch came in the second game when the Marauders let a 7-2 lead turn into a 16-15 deficit. No matter. CCC coach Stephen Shepherd called timeout and the players responded by closing out the match on a 10-3 run.
“We came out with so much energy that it was going to be hard to sustain that through a whole game,” Shepherd said. “We had a little bit of a letdown in the second game, but we played through it and found a way to come back.”
Hamilton finished with 19 digs, 13 kills and three service aces while Moore added nine kills and four blocks.
8A: 'Canes neutralize Bulls' key player
PALM HARBOR — For Palm Harbor University to advance to its first region final, it had to find a way to stop Bloomingdale hitter Karissa Rhoades in Tuesday night’s Class 8A semifinal. Rhoades had 457 kills in 29 games for the Bulls, and if she got hot, the
Hurricanes would be in trouble.
PHU’s stellar defense made sure that wasn’t an issue.
Bolstered by the play of Ameije Ismaili (21 digs), Emma Strong (20 digs) and Naomi Mack (five blocks, nine kills), the Hurricanes frustrated Bloomingdale all night in a surprisingly comfortable 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 win. PHU (21-8) will play at Winter Park on Saturday.
“I knew that most of their offense was to (Rhoades),” PHU coach Tara Kuk said. “I’m a firm believer that a team is going to beat an individual every time. It looked like our team has been together for years, but really this is the first year. It’s just crazy how well they played as a team.”
PHU held only a slight 7-6 lead in the first game before going on a 6-0 run to make it 13-6. From there, led by kills from Jazmine Barker, AnnaMarie Huy and Strong, PHU closed out the game with three straight points.
The second game was all Hurricanes early. They jumped out to a 7-1 lead and led 10-3 at one point. The Bulls (18-12) chipped away and cut the lead to 21-19. But a service error, a Huy kill and a spike into the net gave PHU a 24-20 lead. Huy closed out the game with another kill.
Bloomingdale dug too big of a hole in the third game with the Hurricanes leading 11-1 to start. The Bulls went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 15-10, but Mack stopped the run with a kill and PHU cruised from there.
“We couldn’t let them get runs,” Mack said. “They did get a few and we just had to slow ourselves down. We were able to get ourselves back on track.”
Bulls coach Margeaux Sinibaldi figured it would take a flawless effort to beat PHU.
“We had a lot of errors,” she said. “You can’t win a match when you’re making 15 errors a game. They didn’t make a lot of errors. That’s a hard team to beat right there.”
Rhoades led the Bulls with 12 kills. Barker had seven kills and seven blocks for PHU.
6A: Five-setter doesn't go Osceola's way
TRINITY — Mitchell and Osceola were accustomed to playing in five-set matches, but never with so much at stake. Both schools Tuesday were seeking their first trip to the Class 6A region finals and in the end Mitchell was steadier, winning 23-25, 25-21, 27-25, 20-25, 15-7.
Mitchell won its 20th straight match and hosts Venice on Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs went 4-0 against the Warriors this year, but three matches went the distance. Osceola shook off a dramatic third-set defeat and ensuing six-point deficit in the fourth before running out of steam.
“They were bigger, stronger and faster than us and we still gave them all they can handle,” said coach Ryan Kramer.
The match featured some inconsistent play on both sides, but also had plenty of drama, great defense and a dozen or so points that neared the minute mark. After Osceola (14-10) won eight straight points on Jen Kistemaker’s serve to go up 16-11 in the fourth set,
Mitchell closed within 17-16 after one such epic point, ending in a kill by Daniele Green. But an ace by Katie Newman paved the way for Osceola to win the set, punctuated by Emily Barton’s kill.
Barton led everyone with 21 kills, but Osceola gave Mitchell (24-5) five points on errors, two straight as Mitchell went up 9-6. Shayna Filippelli had a kill and a block after that and Payton Murchie’s unreal dig led to the point that set the Mustangs on their way. Six-foot sophomore Kayla Widera ended it with a kill.
Osceola hadn’t won the first set in any of the three previous meetings. This time neither team led by more than two until Kayla Chowdhury’s shot through a Mitchell block attempt made it 20-17. A nice touch shot by Chowdhury put it 22-20 but the Mustangs answered back to tie. However Osceola won the final two points on an error, followed by a Barton kill.
“When we’re clicking, it seems like we can beat any team,” Barton said. “I thought we had it, but we kind of lost our communication in the end.”
Kramer said the Warriors’ “up-and-down” performance was symptomatic of the entire season but praised his team’s overall effort.
Senior setter Hayley Misewich had 32 assists and 31 digs. Newman had 32 digs.
2 p.m. Saturday
8A: Palm Harbor University at Winter Park
3A: Evangelical Christian at Clearwater Central Catholic
Correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.