The top two seeds advanced in the Class 5A, District 10 playoffs, but not without a challenge.
Top seed Lakewood struggled with Boca Ciega before winning 15-6, 7-15, 15-9. And No. 2 St. Petersburg advanced 13-15, 15-11, 15-6 over Northeast.
The finals are Friday at 7 p.m.
Boca Ciega made Lakewood work for every point in the second match. The Pirates jumped to a 6-5 lead in the first game before Allison Hahn served 10 straight points to help Lakewood to a 15-6 win.
In the second game, it was Lakewood that took an early lead before the Pirates came charging back. Behind its solid defense, Boca Ciega overcame a 3-0 deficit and built a 7-3 lead. Lakewood never got closer than two points.
And in the third game, the Pirates led 6-0 before eventually giving way.
"We were so flat," Spartans' coach Kaylen Bayly said. "(Boca Ciega) played well, probably well enough to beat us. But we came back somehow."
Hahn was once again dominate with her serves. And the net play of Alana Renaud, Kristen Withrow and Marissa Venuti proved to be too much for the Pirates.
In the opening game, St. Petersburg stumbled before eventually eliminating Northeast. The Green Devils jumped to a 7-0 lead in Game 2 and hung on.
In the deciding game, St. Petersburg's Chrissy Fetzer served eight straight points to break the game open.
Class 6A, District 5
TAMPA _ It was not easy, but East Lake downed an inspired Hillsborough team 15-12, 15-12 in the semifinals to advance to Friday's championship match at King. There, the Eagles will meet Gaither, a 15-3, 15-6 winner over Leto.
"They were playing good and we were a little off," said East Lake's Faith Tarver, who led all players with 13 kills.
From the start, the Terriers (7-8) proved to be very tough. Neither team led by more than four points in Game 1, and that was when Hillsborough broke open an 7-7 tie with three Erica Poirer aces and a Eagle kill that found the net. At that point, the Terriers led 11-7 and had the momentum.
They soon lost it.
East Lake (19-8) fought back, with a little Terrier help. A Hillsborough carry and a couple of kills that fell long brought East Lake to within one. Then, a pair of authoritative Tarver kills gave the lead back to the Eagles for good.
Game 2 was a chance for Hillsborough to come back. Down 6-1, then 11-5, the Terriers chipped away until tying it 12. Three sideouts later, though, East Lake's Molly Dolon rang up a couple aces, then a Terrier return hit the side antenna, ending the match.
_ ERIC RANGUS
Class 5A, District 8
NEW PORT RICHEY _ Tarpon Springs advanced to Friday's final at River Ridge where they will meet Gulf, a surprise 2-15, 15-11, 15-10 winner over the host and No. 1 seed River Ridge. The second-seeded Spongers survived a spirited Ridgewood team that survived five match points in the final game before falling 13-15, 15-7, 17-15.
Tarpon Springs middle hitter Karen Sullivan, a 6-foot sophomore who seldom played in the back row, dominated the front attack in the second game. Sullivan seemed to make every timely kill and every needed block.
"When she's on, Karen can be very dominating," said first-year coach Monica Wilson. "We saw some of that from her tonight."
But as dominant as Sullivan was, the underdog Rams weren't about to wave to white flag. Ridgewood came back from a 12-9 deficit to win the first set 15-13. But all that did was wake up the Spongers.
_ ROGER MILLS
Class 4A, District 12
PALM HARBOR _ The host Palm Harbor U. Hurricanes earned the chance to win the title on their home floor with a near-flawless match Wednesday against Osceola, overwhelming the Warriors with a powerful game at the net en route to a 15-5, 15-1 semifinal victory.
PHU will face Sickles for the championship tonight at 7 p.m. The Gryphons, undefeated in the district, needed 90 minutes to fight off Robinson 15-13, 14-16, 15-13.
"We were fired up because this is our second year and we wanted to get to the district final. We knew what we had to do," said Hurricanes co-captain Jennifer Dull. "Sickles is the only team that beat us in the district and we wanted another shot at them. We're playing for pride."
Osceola fell behind 5-0 in the first game but had just scored its first point of the match when starter Nicole Saari went down with a sprained ankle. She did not return. PHU (14-13) took advantage, running out to a quick 11-2 lead before closing out the game on an emphatic spike by Dull.
It was more of the same for the Warriors in the second game, as Hurricanes setter Janice Fung served on 11 consecutive points to seal Osceola's fate.
_ JULIE GOODRICH