SPRING HILL — There’s not too many times that Bishop McLaughlin’s volleyball team has been on the ropes this season, but during the second set of Thursday’s Class 3A, District 5 championship against Berkeley Prep, it looked as though the Hurricanes might be in for a long night.
The Buccaneers were looking to upset one of the top teams in the state. But Bishop McLaughlin buckled down to pull off a narrow victory in Game 2 set en route to a 25-6, 25-22, 25-15 victory.
Bishop McLaughlin claimed its second straight district championship and will host a first-round region game next week. The Hurricanes’ playoff run likely will have them meet fellow 3A powers Clearwater Central Catholic or Calvary Christian; both are ranked in the state top 10 by MaxPreps, and Bishop is 18th. Region seedings will be released Sunday.
“We’ve got a pretty solid team,” Bishop McLaughlin coach Doug Chinchar said. “After we won that first set, the worst thing for us was the match stopped and that was the best thing for (Berkeley Prep). I think after we were able to settle in there, we bounced back. Berkeley Prep is a good team and they should be ranked higher (currently 65th in the state)."
Chinchar’s Hurricanes didn’t waste much time staking themselves to a big lead in the first set, at one point leading 14-2. The second set was more competitive, and involved some heated exchanges between the officials and both Chinchar and Berkeley Prep coach Mackenzie Tichenor.
With the match still hanging in the balance at 15-14 in favor of Bishop McLaughlin, a kill that looked to have gone Berkeley Prep’s way and would have tied things at 15-all, was reversed and gave the Hurricanes a 16-14 advantage. Tichenor spoke to the head official, which stopped play momentarily, and afterward the Hurricanes built a 22-15 advantage before winning the set 25-22.
The Hurricanes left no doubt in the final set. After a narrow lead at 10-9, Bishop McLaughlin outscored the Buccaneers 15-6 the rest of the way to clinch the 3A-5 title.
“I grew up watching Big East basketball,” Chinchar said in regards to now having to go through a tough region. “I would rather go through the toughest region in the state and earn winning a state championship. It was the same way watching Big East basketball growing up. You knew whoever won it ended up earning it.”
Florida State commitment Audrey Koenig finished with four aces and 18 kills for Bishop McLaughlin. Freshmen Maddie Snider (seven digs, 28 assists), Ali Waldon (12 kills) and Adrianna Lopez (11 digs) also were key contributors in the victory.