LUTZ — There will be some redecorating at the Steinbrenner gym this year.
The volleyball banner that hangs in a corner of the gym features four district titles but, until now, there was no reason to fill the column for region champions.
After a 25-14, 25-23, 25-20 win over Orlando Lake Nona on Saturday in the Class 7A-Region 2 final, the Warriors are headed to their first state Final Four. They can add a region title to the volleyball banner after its fifth year in existence.
“I can’t express what this means to the team and to the school,” Steinbrenner coach Laura Stegenga said. “We finally get a chance to change the banner. We have a regional now.”
Steinbrenner has come close often, but could never get over the hump.
“Everybody came through for us,” Stegenga said. “This is a very big deal to this school.”
Steinbrenner struggled, falling behind in each game, but rallied each time, supported by a boisterous student section.
Rachel Mathison dominated the net with 13 kills and added five aces. Brooke Royals added 20 digs, but the Warriors had to survive several scares.
In the first game, the Warriors trailed early but scored seven straight and held on, but in the second game, the lead changed hands six times down the stretch before Mathison spiked home a winner to give the Warriors the victory.
In Game 3, the teams were tied at 20 before Steinbrenner closed it out.
6A-3: Mitchell’s winning streak ends
TRINITY — Mitchell’s streak has come to an end.
Riding a 20-game winning streak into the program’s first region final in the midst of its best season, the Mustangs were swept by defending Class 6A state champ, Venice, 25-12, 25-10, 25-14.
“We got beat by a great team — there’s a reason they’re the perennial state championship contenders,” Mustangs coach Keith Paulk said. “But we had too many streaks of two, three errors, and Venice doesn’t have that. You have to be near perfect to beat them. ... My girls did a lot of rising to the occasion, and they were never like, ‘Oh no, we’re playing the state champs.’ They were, ‘Oh, we’re playing the state champs. Time to step up.’ ”
Mitchell (24-6) started off strong in each game, especially in Game 2 when it took a 7-3 lead, but the Indians (23-7) would run the table down the stretch in each game with lopsided runs. In Game 2, Venice outscored the Mustangs 22-3 after a 7-7 tie and then went 18-7 to close out Game 3.
The Mustangs got in their blocks, but still had difficulty against the hard-hitting Indians, who have yet to drop a set this postseason.
“We didn’t play our game — we played their’s which didn’t work out for us,” senior outside hitter Daniele Green said. “We wanted to make history by making states, but we still did make history making it to here.”
Paulk couldn’t be prouder of the best team he’s coached for nine seasons.
“I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Paulk said. “We only had five matches go to five games and each time they found a way to win. They always exceeded expectations this year.”
5A-3: Robinson rallies from 2-0 deficit
NAPLES — Robinson battled from a 2-0 deficit to win the final three sets and match against Naples Lely, sending the Knights to the state tournament for the first time since 1978.
The Knights, who last won a state title in 1978, will face Belleview in the Class 5A state semifinals in Kissimmee on Tuesday.
Saturday’s final score was 18-25, 14-25, 25-12, 25-22 and 15-12.
“After we were down 0-2, the first thing we said to them, if they’re going to win, we’re going to make them beat us and give them all we’ve got,” Robinson coach Christen Garcia said. “We minimized our errors and exposed them.”
Robinson trailed 5-0 in the fifth set but rallied to tie the score at 7. Eventually, the Knights took a four-point lead and closed out the match.
Catia Sleet, Kylee Gorngpratum and Lauren Wheatley each had 10 kills for Robinson while Alex Peterson had 19 digs.
“The first two games, and they’re a solid team, they were keeping balls in play and making plays when they needed to,” Garcia said. “We made some errors and it went their way.”
Robinson lost in the region final last season.
5A-2: Fivay falls in straight sets
BELLEVIEW — For the second straight season, Fivay (24-7) bowed out of the region finals with a sweep as Belleview defeated the Falcons 25-23, 25-21, 25-20.
“We kept starting off strong, and I was happy with that, but we kept letting them back in the game,” first-year Fivay coach Nikki Pollock said. “We couldn’t get anything going once they’d get back into it and then we were always playing catch up after just one or two mistakes. ... We felt in control a lot of the game, but just couldn’t keep a lead.”
The Rattlers (25-5) were down to the Falcons 9-4 in Game 1, but battled back to take a late lead. Fivay battled back in Game 2, when it was down 8-3 and got back to 13-10, but was outscored 15-8 from there.
Led by the Nemetz twin sisters, outside hitters Briannah (14 kills) and Ashleigh (10 kills), and libero Courtney Costa’s 10 digs, the Falcons had no answer for Belleview’s Mikaylah Gillespie (17 kills, 14 digs).
Despite Saturday’s loss, Pollock’s first year at the helm was a success that included the program’s first district title.
“I’m really pleased on how hard they worked to get here and to become the first district champs in volleyball,” Pollock said. “I’m also proud with how they came back and beat Anclote again in regions and the rest of the season. But today, just wasn’t our day either.”
4A-3: Berkeley Prep in familiar territory
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep coach John Coup had minimal information on LaBelle, his team’s opponent in Saturday’s final.
He knew they possessed a talented outside hitter and were standing in his Buccaneers’ way of reaching the state semifinals.
After a sluggish start in the first set, however, Coup advised his players to settle into themselves and play Berkeley Prep volleyball, the same style that’s led to the program’s 15 state titles.
Seniors Sidney Brown, Logan Weldon and Addison Harden proved to be unstoppable in leading the Buccaneers in three sets, 25-14, 25-12 and 25-14, to advance to Tuesday’s state semifinals.
“I just challenged our kids to make their barometer themselves,” Coup said. “Don’t look at the other side of the net, let’s be happy with the way we play and let’s be happy with how hard we’re working and go from there. We did a much better job of that in the middle to end of all three games.”
Brown had 16 kills, Weldon had 13 and Harden finished with 10. Senior setter had 40 assists.
Berkeley Prep (22-7) lost in the 4A state title match last year to consensus No. 1 national champion Orlando Bishop Moore.
“We have expectations for ourselves as a team to get to the state final every year, so we’re absolutely not done,” said Brown, who also had seven digs.
“There was a celebration, but not a celebration other teams have when they win the region final and know they’re go to the final four. Our focus is beyond.”
3A-2: Tampa Prep falls to First Academy again
ORLANDO — For the second straight year, Tampa Prep had to travel to First Academy, a program that has won five consecutive state titles, to play in the region final on their path to the state tournament.
And for the second straight year, their Terrapins journey ended inside First Academy’s gymnasium
First Academy defeated Tampa Prep, 25-22, 24-26, 24-29, 25-12, 15-9, Saturday, ending the Terrapins season at 17-11.
The teams traded points in the fifth set until First Academy capitalized on Tampa Prep’s miscues.
“We had a few passing errors and we got a little one dimensional in our offense,” Tampa Prep coach Andrew Wilson said.
“We made mental mistakes and played a little tight.”
First Academy defeated Tampa Prep in three sets last season.
“They were about the same as they were last year and we were a little better,” Wilson said. “They’re a very strong team.”
2A-2: Tampa Bay HEAT comes up short
WINTER PARK — The home-schooled Tampa Bay HEAT, in its first year of eligibility, was eliminated 25-13, 25-14, 28-26 by The Geneva School of Winter Park.
Tears flowed following the elimination, but for most of the girls, this was but a dream three years ago — to even have a team, let alone a state tournament championship caliber one.
“Only one of these starting girls is a senior; we will be back,” said Teresa Manganello, one of the originators of the Home Education Activities Teams (HEAT) in 2010.
The Geneva School led from the start and was energized by the play of the powerful twosome of Sarah Barker and Brooke Riley, who put the ball where the HEAT was not.
In the times the HEAT (20-4) crushed the ball, the Spartans had answers, making blocks, and digs that led to powerful returns. Such defense was something the HEAT girls had not seen in recent games, and appeared to put them on their heels.
The only game that the HEAT was competitive was in the third, when a soft shot and strong kill by Victoria Trueheart, and three blocks by her younger sibling, Catherine, turned a 7-6 deficit into a 10-7 lead.
They built their lead to 14-10 before the Spartans came back. After a back and forth, the strong serving and power game of Geneva was too much.
Victoria Trueheart had 10 kills in 25 attempts and was not able to get the set-ups she has received recently.