ST. PETERSBURG — This week, Northside Christian coach Kelly Jackson encouraged her players to be more aggressive, to jump higher, to drive the ball harder.
The Mustangs did all those things and more in dismantling Fort Myers Evangelical Christian 25-20, 25-18, 25-12 in the Class 2A region quarterfinals Wednesday.
"It's been a roller coaster to get them to play aggressively on a consistent basis," Jackson said. "But they responded in practice and showed it on the court. I think they're definitely hungry for the next level."
Northside Christian (19-9), eager to get back to the region finals for the second straight season, got a strong, all-around performance from its starters.
In the first game, the Mustangs struggled to hold Evangelical down the stretch but still prevailed. After that, Northside Christian started to find its rhythm with serves for aces and spikes for kills. Even when the Sentinels got something going, the Mustangs' front line, anchored by Kayla Walton and Jennica Mullins, held up.
After winning the second game, Northside showed just how well it is capable of playing in Game 3, scoring 14 of the last 17 points.
Walton had 19 kills and Mullins 12 for the Mustangs. Other leaders for Northside included Chelsea Craft with four blocks, Walton with four assists and Katie Traina with four service aces.
"It was a big win," Jackson said. "We were strong serving and blocking and we were able to do a lot."