PINELLAS PARK — Northeast coach Amanda McGowan was determined to make sure her top-seeded team wasn't overconfident entering Wednesday's Class 5A, District 12 semifinal against Pinellas Park.
"We lost to them earlier in the season and that's why — overconfidence," McGowan said. "I kept telling them all day, 'If we win.' I just drilled that into them."
The Vikings did, in fact, win, but it wasn't easy.
In a back-and-forth match, Northeast needed every bit of its focus to fend off the determined Patriots 25-15, 20-25, 25-22, 25-13 in a duel that was much closer than the score would indicate.
Northeast (8-8) will play Boca Ciega (7-9), which defeated Largo 25-23, 10-25, 19-25, 25-18, 15-8 in the other semifinal, for the championship Friday night.
Both winners qualified for the state playoffs.
"They're very excited," Boca Ciega coach Lauren Kaminski said.
Boca Ciega and Largo split two matches in the regular season, and very little separated them Wednesday. After Largo won the second and third games, it looked as if the Packers had the match well in hand, but Boca Ciega rallied by attacking the lines, a strategy that paid big dividends.
The Pirates finished with Alexandra Lenczyk's ace on match point.
"Our goal was to play smart and they did," Kaminski said.
Sluggish at times in the second and third games of its semifinal because of poor serve receive and passing, Northeast eventually pulled away behind hitter Lauren Campbell (16 kills) and setter Carsen Murphy (18 assists).