SEMINOLE — Osceola doesn’t have a rich playoff history in volleyball, but the Warriors have hopes this season. They took their first step toward a deep playoff run Wednesday night by beating Springstead 25-12, 25-13, 25-7 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
Second seed Osceola (24-0) will host third-seed Lecanto (25-3), a 25-18, 25-15, 25-20 winner over Fivay, on Tuesday in the semifinals.
“I think they were a bit nervous," Osceola coach Ashley Martin said of her team. “The first round is usually their evil enemy. They haven’t made it through many and now it’s on to trying to get past the second round.”
There was no reason to be nervous. The Warriors jumped out to a quick first-set lead and never trailed. It was 10-3 after a kill by Kalli Cors. The Eagles (12-15) could only cut the lead to 14-9 before Osceola got rolling again. The Warriors scored 11 of the next 13 points to close out the set. Cors had three more kills during the run, and Nicole Fowler and Taylor Loope each had aces.
Springstead hung on early in the second set. The Eagles only trailed 10-7, but Osceola picked it up and had an 18-13 lead. From there, the Warriors closed out the set with seven straight points.
The third set was not close. The Warriors had a 13-1 lead halfway through and were able to use just about every player. Cors, Sandy Cao, Olivia Dal Sasso, Abbie Busch and Kaitlin Curry were all big at the net. Cors led the team with 14 kills. Cao added 10, Dal Sasso had seven and Busch and Curry each had four.
“We try to use all of our hitters so we can wear out the defense,” Martin said. “We try to keep the defense guessing. And it’s nice that if one player is having an off night, they we can use some other players.”
While Osceola expected to be playing well into the region tournament, Springstead did not expect to be playing on Wednesday. The Eagles lost to Lecanto in straight sets in the district semifinals to finish the regular season with a losing record.
After the Lecanto game, Springstead coach Andrea Kneser gave her team a farewell speech. Then came Sunday afternoon, when the region brackets were released.
“We thought our season was over,” Kneser said. "I didn’t think we were going to play at all. Sunday I got a notification on my phone that we had a game on Wednesday.
“We had the, ‘I’m proud of you guys, we’ve had some big upsets this year’ speech (after the district semifinal loss). We called the seniors off. Then on Monday we had a big pep talk and the seniors were talking about how they put their volleyball stuff in the closet. Our goal for tonight was just to have fun. We knew our competition was going to be at a high caliber. But the girls just wanted another chance to play with each other."
And Kneser said the match may help next year’s team.
“I was excited for my girls to play this competition,” she said. “I have a lot of girls with raw talent. Some of them don’t play club. So getting to see girls who play volleyball year round is good for my underclassmen to see.”