ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood tried to duplicate its upset of a higher-seeded team for the second night in a row, but Braden River closed out the fifth game on an 11-2 run Thursday to end the Spartans' district championship streak. The Pirates claimed the championship 17-25, 25-17, 25-16, 19-25, 15-5 for their first district title.
"We've got to stop melting down," Lakewood coach Sean O'Flannery said. "Errors really cost us."
The Spartans got another stellar performance from Berkley Whaley, who dominated with 30 kills to go with four aces.
"We can't depend on her," O'Flannery said. "We've got to have someone else step up and score points."
The teams traded points in the first game before Whaley took over, using a powerful jump serve to keep the Pirates on their heels. Whaley also peppered the back line with kills.
"(Whaley) is amazing and killed us on her own in the first game," Pirates coach Steven Haugh said. "Our goal is to ignore her and play everyone else."
The Pirates employed strong serving and defense to take the middle two games.
With their backs against the wall the Spartans came out firing, taking a commanding lead before holding off a furious Pirates rally.
"I told our girls during a timeout in the fourth game that we have to believe no one can beat you," O'Flannery said. "We have to finish them off."
In the fifth game the Spartans errors' caught up to them. They fell behind 3-0 before tying the game. The Pirates then closed it out.
"We're tied, then a service error, a hitting error and a defensive error," O'Flannery said. "We melted down.
"We have nine underclassmen but we can't melt down. That has been our season for the most part."
Both teams move on to the region playoffs.