TAMPA — The last two times Holy Names and Tampa Catholic met, the Jaguars prevailed in five-set marathons.
But Tuesday night in the Class 4A, District 9 semifinals at Berkeley Prep, the past didn’t matter. For both teams, their seasons were on the line.
Despite dropping the first set and blowing a 2-1 lead, the Jaguars again captured a five-set victory, 19-25, 25-17, 25-15, 17-25, 15-12.
“Every time I can remember, we go five sets,” Holy Names senior middle Brynn Wiley said. “To be honest, I have the most fun when we play them because you know they’re going to give you everything. It can be frustrating, but in a good way.”
The win clinched the Jaguars’ first region tournament berth since 2007 and earned a spot in Thursday’s championship against top-seeded Berkeley Prep, which beat fourth-seed Sarasota Booker 25-6, 25-6, 25-4.
It was Holy Names’ (17-6) third five-set win over Tampa Catholic this season, the most recent coming Thursday on the Jaguars’ senior night.
“We were really able to use that experience of having played in a fifth game,” AHN coach Jeff Davis said. “We were able to feel the pressure and have to make the plays to win.”
Tampa Catholic (16-7) won a third meeting — a best-of-three pool-play match at the Holy Names tournament in second weekend of the season. Wiley, who led the Jaguars with a season-high 25 kills Tuesday, didn’t play in that game because she missed the season’s first month recovering from an MCL injury.
But Tuesday’s match proved to be a test of endurance, and a young Holy Names team that plays three freshmen and two sophomores in its rotation relied on 5-foot-10 freshman Becca Prossen late with quick sets in the middle.
Prossen has three of her 13 kills in the decisive fifth set, while junior middle Erin Przedpelski had eight kills in the match.
Tampa Catholic rallied from 6-3 down in the fifth set to take a 9-6 lead on consecutive aces by senior Julianne Holcombe, but the Jaguars tied the match, then scored the final three points.
“It’s kind of been the story of our season,” Tampa Catholic coach John Babbitt said. “We come out on fire and then we lose the momentum. We let the second and third games slip away. It was like we were a different team.”
Berkeley Prep needed just 52 minutes to beat Sarasota Booker. Senior Jordan Burgess led the Buccaneers, ranked No. 9 in the nation by MaxPreps, with 10 kills and setter Mackenzie Dagostino has 22 assists and 10 service points.
7A-9: Warriors coach sees flaws despite sweep
LUTZ — Even though Steinbrenner, the top seed in district 7A-9, didn’t come out as sharp as coach Jennifer Graham would have preferred, the biggest hole the Warriors had to climb out of against Gaither was a 6-2 deficit at the start of the second game.
Ten consecutive Lauren Heldt serves, along with four Madison Seuzeneau kills, took care of that.
Thanks to a balanced attack, Steinbrenner (21-4, 4-0) swept the Cowboys in the second 7A-9 district semifinal. The Warriors will take on Freedom, the only district team that took them to four games, Thursday night in the final.
“We had some down moments,” Graham said. “We can’t miss five serves in a district match; it’s not okay with us.”
After losing the first two games 25-15 and 25-10, Gaither (6-13, 1-3) rallied to make the third game more competitive. Steinbrenner was unable to pull away, and the score was 18-15 in the Warriors’ favor when Gaither used its first timeout.
“I told them, ‘It’s all business,’ ” Graham said. “It’s all business, and take care of it.”
Hedlt was able to hold serve, this time rattling off five, including an ace on game point, as Steinbrenner won 25-17.
Senior libero Cary Anne Bame anchored the Warriors’ defense with 11 digs. Sophomore setter Caey McLean dished out 41 assists, and Miranda Powell and Seuzeneau tied for the team lead in kills with 11 apiece.
“They were kind of small blockers,” Seuzeneau said. “But I know that later on throughout districts and regions that it’s definitely going to be harder, and I won’t be able to swing wherever I want.”
Freedom split the first two games before pulling away to beat Bulls 3-1. The Patriots were lead by sophomore Hannah Kaczmarek and her 20 kills.
“For us the pass is everything,” Freedom coach Kerry Short. “If we keep it away from the net, we can set up our offense. My two outside hitters, Hannah and Jasmyn (Perry) had great games, were able to put the ball away, and that’s where a lot of our points came from.”
7A-8: Sharks, Raiders meet again
After its three-game win over Tampa Bay Tech in the Class 7A-8 district semifinals, Riverview will have its rematch with Plant City to decide a district title.
The defending district champion Sharks (18-8) beat the Titans 25-12, 25-10, 25-17, led by Florida State recruit Sarah Burrington’s 12 kills. Jenna Cook added nine kills and Kiahna Wicks had seven.
Top-seeded Plant City needed four games to eliminate fifth seed East Bay 25-13, 24-26, 25-7, 25-16.
The Sharks lost to Plant City in three games in their third match of the season but were without the 6-foot-5 Burrington, who was sick and missed three games early in the season.
“There was definitely a change in mentality without Sarah,” Riverview coach Kristin Grosso said. “We’re excited to get back here and we’re looking to win it. Are we upset that we’re the second seed? No. They beat us, but now we’re hosting (districts) and we’re excited to come out with the win.”
6A-12: King to face top seed
Second-seeded King advanced to the region tournament for the first time since 2005 with a 25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 win over Strawberry Crest in the Class 6A-12 district semifinals.
The Lions (16-7) will face top-seeded Sickles, a 25-18, 18-25, 25-16, 25-15 winner over Armwood, in Thursday’s district final.
King freshman Damali Mills led the Lions with 17 kills and junior Mallory Mitchell tallied 15. Mills and Alex Pividal registered seven aces each and freshman setter Mercedyz Mitchell had 57 assists and six kills.
The final will be a rematch of the teams’ meeting on Sept. 15, a contest won by Sickles (13-12) in four games. That was King’s only district loss.
5A-11: Knights earn first berth since 2002
Top-seeded Robinson clinched its first region tournament berth since 2002 with a three-game win over Blake, 25-10, 25-10, 25-10, in the Class 5A-11 district semifinal.
The Knights (14-10) will face No. 2 seed Lennard, which beat third-seeded Middleton 26-24, 25-13, 25-16, in Thursday’s district championship.
Senior co-captain Crystal Ortiz led Robinson with 10 kills and senior Katie Hogan added eight kills and a team-high seven digs. Knights captain and setter Sophia Tahiri had 24 assists.
The Longhorns clinched their second region tournament berth in the school’s six-year history.
3A-8: Tampa Prep knocks out Seffner
Tampa Prep continued its strong season with a convincing 25-11, 25-14, 25-17 win over Seffner Christian a 3A-8 semifinal at Bishop McLaughlin.
The Terrapins (15-10) advance to Thursday’s final against Bishop McLaughlin, which rallied from two games down to knock off Carrollwood Day, 16-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-14, 15-13.
Tampa Prep jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first game and breezed the rest of the way. Seffner Christian (14-9) led only twice — in the first three points of the second game.
Katie Krueger starred for the Terrapins with a match-high 15 kills.
2A-8: Cambridge shrugs off slow start
After dispatching their Class 2A-8 district semifinal opponents, Cambridge and Bayshore Christian will face each other in Thursday’s rubber-match district final.
Top-seeded Cambridge overcame a sluggish start to beat Academy at the Lakes 16-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-10.
“We were probably looking past our opponent a little,” Cambridge coach Dave Walcott said.
Lancers senior Olivia Yeager had 16 kills and senior Caitlin Carr tallied 17 digs for Cambridge (17-8).
Meanwhile, Bayshore (19-7) made quick work of Tampa Bay Christian 25-12, 25-16, 25-10. Senior Madison Schmitt led the Faith Warriors with 21 kills. Freshman Marie Kelly had 11 kills and six digs while freshman setter Nadia Hall had 34 assists.
The Faith Warriors return to the region tournament after not making the postseason last year for this first time in 13 years.
Each team won on its home court in the regular season and both teams had 9-1 district records.
“We’re going in looking to win again,” Bayshore coach Melanie Humenansky said. “And maybe having to prepare for facing them a fourth time (in regions).”
Staff writers Laura Keeley and Matt Baker contributed to this report.