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Saturday, Nov 18, 2017
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District volleyball: Mitchell survives Sunlake; Land O'Lakes dispatches Springstead

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.
 
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.

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