TRINITY — Mitchell never did manage a straight-set sweep of district rival Land O Lakes, but the Mustangs will gladly take a season sweep instead. After dropping the first set Wednesday, Mitchell (22-8) defeated the Gators 19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-14 to go 4-0 against them, and earn a spot in the Class 7A region finals.
And for a third straight year they'll be heading across the state to play New Smyrna Beach (26-2). Tuesday's matchup will decide a state semifinal berth; the Barracudas won last year's meeting, while Mitchell beat them in 2015 en route to being state runnerup.
Mitchell has plenty of seniors who took part in both region runs, but are missing two of the better ones due to injury. Mallory Coleman and Emily Mohrmann worked wonders Wednesday, continuing in the spots of Mariella Haimes (ACL) and Morgin Tew (ankle sprain).
"It was draining with all the bad things that have happened the past few weeks," said senior setter Kamdyn Mohr. "We were all saying 'What do we do now?' We've worked so hard, we didn't want it to end tonight."
Land O'Lakes (18-10) has never made it to the region finals but started out in that direction Wednesday, jumping up 5-0 on three kills (two on tips) by Rachel Michner. She went off for seven kills by the time the score was 16-14, and Sydney Hiner and freshman Brette Heymann added two each in the latter stages to secure the set.
"Our defense wasn't very good in the first," said Mitchell coach Heidi Michaels. "But (the Gators) were ready, you have to credit them. They know us, and we know them. We just made a few tweaks."
Megan McCain and Selena Kriston combined for 15 digs in the second set, one that got good late: Hiner with a vicious kill to tie it at 18, Mohrmann answering in kind for the Mustangs, and Coleman ending a pivotal long point making it 20-19. Deluca's third block in the set (six total) made it 22-19 and Coleman, who had five of her 10 kills in the game, took the score to 24-20.
The 6-foot Deluca took over from there, looking unstoppable with six kills in the third set including four of her team's first five.
"When she gets going like that, everyone's just yelling 'feed her,'" said Mohr, who finished with 41 assists.
An 8-2 stretch featuring consecutive blocks by Deluca and Jessie Mooney had the Mustangs up 19-12. Mohrmann, a lefty who's had to move to the middle in Tew's spot, came up with a big kill after the Gators cut the margin to 22-19 and ended with five for the match to go with four blocks.
"She's been blocking insanely," Mohr said of Mohrmann.
The fourth set saw Deluca add two more blocks and Mooney tally six kills to her match-high total of 17.
Michner played great net defense (four blocks) and ended with 16 kills while Hiner, a senior, added 11 with 23 digs for the Gators. Shayna Heymann had 32 assists and 19 digs, a total matched by Abbie Hindersman.
Kriston went for 32 digs to lead Mitchell while Mooney had 17, McCain 23.