TAMPA — Talk about setting a tone.
Led by tremendous energy from defensive end Joe Lewis, Tampa Bay Tech let Sickles know from the first play Monday that offense was going to be hard to come by. Then the host Titans found the end zone in most every way possible, putting a smackdown on the overmatched Gryphons.
Key drives: Sickles' first two possessions lost 20 yards thanks to Lewis, as he contributed stops on the Gryphons' first two kick returns, a sack and two other tackles. Capping a manic first five minutes, the junior blocked Joseph Sandorf's punt with teammate Jonathan King recovering in the Sickles' end zone for a touchdown. …Full Story
LARGO — The district semifinals are where true playoff pressure begins. Win and there's a berth in regionals and at least two more games to look ahead to; lose and the season is done then and there.
After Calvary Christian shook off six-point deficits to win the second and third sets in Thursday's Class 4A-4 semifinal at Indian Rocks Christian, Gabriela Quarles and the other seniors on top-seeded Carrollwood Day saw the end of the line on the horizon, and that was unacceptable.
"My girls had me, they just kept things positive; we're going to do this," Quarles said, and the Patriots delivered.
With Quarles and setter Kendel Saigol as a potent 1-2 punch, blending well junior Ally-Reese Williams' strong overall play, CDS (now 20-2, 10-0 in district play) took the fourth and fifth sets decisively en route to a 25-22, 25-27, 26-28, 25-20, 15-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Warriors (8-8, 6-3) to advance to Saturday morning's district final against Shorecrest Prep. …Full Story
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep won Tuesday’s Class 5A-9 district semifinal against Tampa Catholic, but barely. That was due in large part, Bucs coach Mackenzie Dagostino said, to mental miscues. Against the Crusaders, Berkeley Prep made a lot of errors and didn’t always play like a state championship-contending team.
So in practice Wednesday, Dagostino made her Bucs go back to the basics, walking through their strategy and brushing up on the brainpower that got them there in the first place.
And in Thursday’s district championship match against Cardinal Mooney, it paid off.
Berkeley Prep cruised to yet another district championship, beating the Cougars 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 25-6) behind a standout performance from Penn State commit Amanda Phegley. But more than any one player, Dagostino was proud of the way her team rebounded from a challenging semifinal — not just physically but mentally …Full Story
Scott Purks | Special to the Times
Plant sophomore Birdie Frierson fires down a kill during a 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 victory Thursday night over Wharton in the Class 8A, District 8 championship match.
TAMPA — Plant came into this season with a new coach, Vanja Todorovic, and a new lineup after graduating several key seniors from last year’s state runnerup squad.
Needless to say there was a learning curve for the players and the coach that was mixed with perennial high expectations.
So far, so good.
After winning the Class 8A, District 8 final Thursday night — 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 over Wharton — Plant (17-5) again appears poised to make a run at a state championship.
“It’s been a good season and we’ve steadily improved,” Todorovic said. “(Hurricane Irma) threw us a bit of a curveball in the middle of the season, but we’ve adjusted and kept working hard and I feel good about it.”
On Thursday, a familiar star from last year, Tampa Bay Times player of the Camryn Vogler, once again shined brightly, digging and knocking down vicious spikes all over the court.
But there were also several more bright lights, including setters Sarah Moffit and Molly Flemming, sophomore outside hitters Birdie Frierson and Cody Murray and freshman Erin Morrisay — several of whom didn’t get serious playing time until this season. …Full Story
GIBSONTON – Top seed Bloomingdale won the Class 8A, District 9 championship Thursday night, but second seed Durant made the Bulls earn it. Just about every point was contested before Bloomingdale came away with a 25-23, 25-20, 24-26, 25-19 win.
The Bulls (13-3) will host St. Petersburg on Wednesday in the region quarterfinals. The Cougars (10-8) will play at Palm Harbor University.
Bloomingdale defeated Durant in straight sets in the regular season, but this match was much more difficult.
“I knew the girls would pull through with the win but I didn’t think it would be in four (games)," Bloomingdale coach Claudia Puig said. “I felt like we could’ve done it in three, but I don’t know what happened. We didn’t come out with the same energy as Tuesday (district semifinal). But at the end we were able to pull it off."
The first game set the tone for the rest of the night. The game was tied 11 different times. The biggest lead came late, when the Bulls went up 24-20 after a net violation. But Durant came back with two kills and a block from Sarah Herman to cut the lead to 24-23. But two more unforced errors closed it out. …Full Story
WESLEY CHAPEL — Fivay leading hitter Kirbea Harrell says the Falcons tend to go on a "teeter-totter" throughout most matches, not keeping the same level of play.
Yet they always end up on top. Fivay made it 16 straight wins Thursday, defeating No. 3 seed Hudson in the Class 6A, District 8 championship match 25-9, 25-14, 25-22 at Wesley Chapel High.
After how Fivay (22-3) started, It would have been pretty tough for the match not to tilt at least a little in the other direction. The Falcons looked unstoppable, with Lindsey Christianson nearly serving out the set after taking the ball at 12-7. The 14-0 Fivay run stretched all the way to a 24-7 lead.
Christianson had three aces in the run. It was Harrell's turn in the second set, serving up four as part of yet another 14-0 stretch.
Their motivations during such runs are the same.
"Definitely the cheer," said Christianson, referring to the "click-click-BOOM" Fivay players perform after each ace. …Full Story
SPRING HILL – Fighting the injury bug and already having clinched a spot in the state playoffs, Mitchell could have easily folded up its tent in the Class 7A, District 8 championship game Thursday night.Full Story
The Mustangs were having none of that, battling through inconsistency on the way to a five-set victory over Land O’Lakes (25-18, 25-22, 24-26, 20-25, 15-11) to earn its second straight district title.
Mitchell (20-8) is decimated by injuries with seniors Morgin Tew (ankle sprain), Mariella Haimes (torn ACL), and Abby Fenech (personal) all out for Thurday’s title match. The Mustangs also got some bad news during the day when freshman Sydney Supinek, one of the players expected to cover for the losses, had her own issue, pulling a muscle in her back.
“We all had to step up,” Mitchell senior Jessie Mooney said. “I had played middle (blocker) before, so I felt like I could do the best job filling in for Morgin. It would definitely help take some pressure off the team.”
Everything seemed under control for the defending district champions in the first two sets. The 2-0 lead gave Mitchell confidence, but according to Mooney, it was too much confidence.
“We just got cocky,” Mooney said. “We didn’t come into it overconfident, but once we won the first two, it seemed like we were going to get it done.”
Land O’Lakes (17-9) took advantage. The Gators had been playing well, but Mitchell had capitalized on every miscue at first. In the third and fourth sets, it was Land O’Lakes that was opportunistic.
Four service errors by the Mustangs helped the Gators to a tight 26-24 win in the third set. In the fourth set, the Gators were down 8-1 after a fast Mitchell start, but a 12-4 run shifted momentum once again, and Land O’Lakes evened up the match.
That shift seemed to continue into the fifth set with the Gators jumping out to an 11-6 lead. The score was helped by some mishits from Mooney (19 kills, one ace). The Mitchell senior had taken a bigger leadership role on the team since Haimes and Tew’s injuries. Wanting to step up, she was fed on four consecutive sets and laced all of them wide out of bounds. It was there that Mustangs coach Heidi Michaels called timeout.
“I just told her that it was her time to lead,” Michaels said. “It was her team now.”
The call from her coach must have worked. Mooney drilled four of her five kills in the set after the timeout, and Mitchell went on a 9-0 run to clinch the match. Combined with junior Kennedy Deluca (21 kills) and senior Emily Mohrmann (10 kills), Mooney led an attack that overwhelmed the Gators. Mohrmann clinched the match with a crucial kill.
The Gators might have come up short in the match, but the future is bright for the club. Not only is Land O’Lakes returning to the postseason for the first time since 2007, but the team was led by the trio of senior Sydney Hiner (13 kills, five aces), junior Rachel Michner (15 kills, two aces), and freshman Brette Heymann (13 kills, three aces).
TAMPA – Plant has dominated its Class 8A, District 8 opponents this season. Prior to Wednesday’s district tournament semifinal against Steinbrenner, the Panthers won all six matches and 18 of 19 games against district foes.
That trend did not change. Top-seeded Plant defeated No. 4 seed Steinbrenner 25-22, 25-17, 25-21 to advance to Thursday’s district final. The Panthers will play No. 3 seed Wharton for the district championship. The Wildcats (15-3) defeated No. 2 seed Wiregrass Ranch 25-23, 26-24, 25-16. Both teams are guaranteed a spot in next Wednesday’s region tournament. Plant advanced to the Class 8A state final last year.
Plant, which played in the opening match, started slowly. Steinbrenner (12-6) jumped out to an 11-7 lead after a kill by Maggie Miller. The Panthers turned it on from there and tied the score at 12. With the score 15-15, Plant (16-5) scored five straight, thanks to two straight blocks by Elizabeth Price and a kill from Sarah Moffit. The first game was closed out on a kill from Ava Friar.
Plant trailed only once in the second game (1-0) and built an early 8-2 lead. The Warriors never got closer than three points and found themselves in a 2-0 hole. …Full Story
WESLEY CHAPEL — Top-seeded Fivay, twice pushed against the ropes by host and big underdog Wesley Chapel, fought through for a straight-set victory and will face Hudson, a 25-23, 25-12, 25-18 winner, for the Class 6A, District 8 volleyball championship Thursday.
Hudson's postseason berth is the school's first since 2010. Fivay (21-3) is in for a fifth straight year and has won 15 matches in a row this season, but had to earn it against the Wildcats who had six set points in the third. But behind senior Kirbea Harrell, who collected 21 kills, the Falcons prevailed 26-24, 25-12, 28-26.
The opener saw the third-seeded Cobras (17-9) avenge a recent five-set defeat to River Ridge, which earned the No. 2 seed with that result. Wednesday's first set seemed to indicate another tight match, with the Royal Knights jumping up by two early and neither team leading by more than four.
But Hudson turned it on in the second, jumping out 9-3 and leading by as much as 22-6. The Cobras charged ahead 18-11 in the third before River Ridge fought back to within a point, but an error and Sarah Miltner ace set the match back in Hudson's favor. …Full Story
SPRING HILL – Sunlake had played plenty of good matches this season, taking its Class 7A, District 8 opponents to the brink on a few occasions.Full Story
None of those hard-fought matches amounted to anything like the Seahawks did against top-seeded Mitchell in Tuesday night’s district semifinal. The Mustangs won a battle of attrition in five sets (25-22, 15-25, 23-25, 29-27, 15-10) to clinch their eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
The Seahawks (5-10) came in winless this season in district play but stunned the short-handed Mustangs (19-8) by jumping in front two sets to one. Mitchell was missing two of their best players, with seniors Morgin Tew and Mariella Haimes both sidelined with severe leg injuries. Add to that the loss of junior Mya Jones to illness, and the Mustangs were backed into a corner.
“You really have to feel for those girls,” coach Heidi Michaels said. “Both of them are among the best in the area. We had some big holes to fill.”
Sunlake sophomore Caroline Schoonover, who came into the match with a team-high 123 kills this season, made her presence known in the fourth set, pacing the Seahawks with seven kills. She and junior Kamea Nash had Mitchell a point from postseason elimination with a 24-22 lead.
“That is the best 5-10 team you’ll see,” Michaels said. “Our district is so strong, and their record was not a good indication of just how good (Sunlake) is.”
The Mustangs would not roll over. With junior Kennedy DeLuca (13 kills, one ace) and senior Jessie Mooney (10 kills, one ace) dominating at the net, Mitchell not only roared back to win the fourth set in dramatic fashion but took that momentum into the fifth set. The first seed never again relinquished the lead.
In the match that was supposed to be close, Land O’Lakes and Springstead did not disappoint.
After splitting the season series, the Gators dispatched the Eagles in four sets (24-26, 25-22, 28-26, 25-18) to earn a ticket to the postseason and a date on Thursday against Mitchell.
Land O’Lakes (17-8), headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the eighth time in school history, was led by junior Rachel Michner (16 kills, one ace) in the front row.
Although Springstead (16-6) controlled the match statistically in both kills (47-44) and aces (16-6), the inability of the Eagles to limit their miscues seemed to be their undoing. The host team led early in every set, burning through leads of 9-0 in the second set, 12-5 in the third set, and 5-1 in the fourth set.
Among the standouts for Springstead were junior Jennifer Aten (nine kills, 10 aces), senior Sami McLeod (15 kills, three aces), and senior Alexis Thompson (11 kills, one ace). The trio was a force at the net all night long with Aten nearing a rare double double.
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep coach Mackenzie Dagostino wanted to see what her team could do without its two best hitters, so when the Bucs’ Class 5A-9 semifinal began Tuesday against Tampa Catholic, they were both on the bench.
For the first two sets, outside hitter Jenna Hampton and middle hitter Amanda Phegley were absent from the court, taking it all in from the sideline as the scrappy Crusader squad fought through handfuls of ties to eke out victories in the first two sets.
But with her team down 2-0 and a playoff berth on the line, Dagostino sent Hampton and Phegley in to save the day. And in sets three, four and five, that’s exactly what they did.
Phegley, a Penn State commit, tallied a team-high 17 kills and Hampton added eight more as the Bucs rallied to top Tampa Catholic 3-2 (28-30, 22-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-8).
“No matter who you’re playing, when you play them, you can never take a point, a set, a match off,” Dagostino said. “I think a lot of times girls go through the motions, and they can come out there a little lackadaisical, and it’s really hard to get out of that. Fortunately, we were able to get out of that.” …Full Story
Scott Purks | Special to the Times
Newsome junior Andrea Fabregas (left) and senior Camila Vazquez (second from left) celebrate with teammates after winning a crucial point during a 25-20, 25-22, 25-19 victory over Riverview in a Class 9A, District 6 semifinal Tuesday night.
LITHIA — It’s tough to go 3-0 against the same team in the same season, a sentiment Newsome voiced after Tuesday night’s Class 9A, District 6 semifinal.
“After beating Riverview two times this season there was very little that they didn’t know about us,” Newsome coach Mike Shaffer said. “We changed up a few things for them, but there wasn’t too much to change. We knew we had to play them tough because we knew they would bring everything they had to try and beat us.”
The Sharks did, but once again Newsome was just a little sharper and tougher at key moments, ultimately leading the Wolves to a 25-20, 25-22, 25-19 victory, and giving them a 3-0 season record against their arch rivals.
Now the Wolves (10-7) move on to Thursday’s district final at Sarasota Riverview, offering Newsome another chance to talk about going 3-0 against the same team in the same season — except in reverse.
In two previous matches this season, Sarasota Riverview (22-3 and ranked 12th in the state by MaxPreps) defeated the Wolves in three straight games. …Full Story
ST. PETERSBURG — One team looking to take that next step into statewide dominance, another reentering postseason glory.
Tampa Bay HEAT and Bishop McLaughlin rode three-set sweeps Tuesday to a date at Keswick Christian on Thursday for the Class 3A, District 4 title.
In the opener, third-seeded Academy at the Lakes (15-12) pushed No. 2 Bishop McLaughlin (14-4) early, but soul-crushing play from sisters Gabriella and Audrey Koenig broke the Wildcats' spirit, completing a 25-19, 26-24, 25-12 sweep.
After seven ties, AATL surged behind the serving of Hannah Nunes and the net play of Lexi Kilfoyl (11 kills, two blocks) to take a 16-12 lead in the second set.
Enter sophomore Gabriella Koenig, who kickstarted a 9-2 Hurricane run with two crushing kills and a key block that fell in for a winner. Two kills from sophomore Lauren Reinhart put the Wildcats up by one, but freshman Audrey Koenig's fifth kill of the set combined with an ace from freshman setter Riley Gowing (eight assists and four aces) to give Bishop McLaughlin momentum.
From there, Gabriella Koenig went for the jugular, notching seven of her team-high 18 kills in the final set. …Full Story
PALM HARBOR — Since volleyball was added as a girl’s varsity sport in the 1970s, St. Petersburg has never won a district championship. The Green Devils have another chance at making history after advancing to the Class 8A, District 10 final with a 26-24, 25-19, 17-25, 25-14 win over No. 3 seed East Lake.
No. 2 seed St. Petersburg faces top seed and host Palm Harbor University on Thursday at 7. PHU defeated No. 4 Countryside 25-14, 25-13, 25-10. The Green Devils have been district runnerup four times.
“Our goal since the beginning of the season was to beat Palm Harbor in their house,” St. Petersburg coach Todd Maxwell said. “I don’t know if we can do that, and I know I’m giving them fuel for the fire, but that’s the goal we’ve had ever since we knew where districts were being held. Thursday, Oct. 19. That’s when we can do something our school has never done before.” …Full Story
ST. PETERSBURG — Keondrae Miller had a choice. With Admiral Farragut trailing by a point to Indian Rocks Christian with two minutes left and the ball on the Blue Jackets’ own 12-yard line, the second-down play called for a deep pass to Zion Roland.
Makes sense. Roland had already caught two long touchdowns and had 157 receiving yards. But with Roland covered, Miller decided tuck the ball and run. He broke three tackles near the line of scrimmage and ran all the way to the Golden Eagles’ 14-yard line.
Three plays later, Miller scored on a 1-yard keeper with five seconds left that iced a 40-35 come-from-behind win Monday night.
“I looked at my options and I knew there would be deep coverage,” said Miller, who rushed for 107 yards and threw for 240. “I anticipated zone coverage and when I saw the running lane I just had to take it. With those type of runs you have to dig deep and find your inner self. I found it at the last second.”
With the win, Admiral Farragut (4-4) keeps its Class 2A playoff hopes alive.
“If we didn’t win this game there was really no shot of us making the playoffs,” Roland said. …Full Story