Brittany Bell entered the second game Monday with a brace on one knee and tape wrapped tight around one wrist. The brace was for an old injury; the tape was from a new one, sustained minutes earlier _ while giving a high-five.
Bell sat out half of the first game but returned to make a pair of stunning, diving saves in the second as Hernando High defeated visiting South Sumter 15-7, 15-8 in the Class 4A, Region II North volleyball semifinal.
Hernando, 28-4 and ranked No. 9 in the final Class 4A state poll, advances to the region final Thursday at Bolles High in Jacksonville. Bolles, 29-3 and ranked No. 3, was a 15-4, 15-4 winner Monday over Marianna (12-7). The winner advances to the state tournament.
Bell's saves led to points at critical junctures for the Leopards, who trailed the Raiders 6-2 at one point in the second game. Hernando went up 8-6 _ its first 2-point lead in the game _ following Bell's first save, and up 12-8 after the second.
Bell left the first game with Hernando up 4-2 after either stretching or tearing ligaments in her right forearm while slapping hands with teammate Sara Bartos, who led the Leopards with numerous kills and blocks.
"I feel really good that I got something accomplished," Bell said. "Since I played so little, I feel great about it."
Kim Henry played in Bell's absence, and her five-point serving run put Hernando up 14-7. After several sideouts, Casey Ellis served game point, making amends for a rare net serve earlier.
Ellis continued when Hernando was down 6-2 in the second game, serving four points to tie it at 6 before a fluke tip by South Sumter ended the run. Later, with the score tied at 8, Tinsley Gordon served four straight to make it 12-8. After the teams traded sideouts, Audrey Friedland served out the final three points.