TAMPA — Bloomingdale junior outside hitter Karissa Rhoades said her team’s goal for this season was to win a district championship and advance to the state tournament.
After defeating Newsome, 3-1, in the Class 8A-District 7 semifinals Wednesday, Rhoades and the Bulls are one win from scratching a district title off that list.
Rhoades led Bloomingdale with 25 kills and 11 digs to end the program’s two-year playoff drought by advancing to the district final, where they will face top seed and host Plant tonight at 7.
Bloomingdale, the second seed, won 25-17, 26-28, 25-18, 25-19.
“It’s really exciting,” Rhoades said. “We’re ready to come back and win (tonight).”
Plant beat fourth-seeded Wharton, 17-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-18.
“(Wharton) is a very scrappy, defensive team, which is the hardest team to beat because they go after every play and they never give up and they try for everything,” said Plant senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Sibson, who finished with 19 kills and 17 digs.
Plant won both regular-season meetings against Bloomingdale, and eliminated Bloomingdale from the district tournament last year.
“(Bloomingdale) hit their peak at the end of the season,” Sibson said. “They almost beat Durant. We’ve done a lot of scouting on them and we’ve played them twice, so I think we’ve got them.”
- Nick Williams
7A-7: Plant City to play Durant for crown
GIBSONTON — Plant City and Durant emerged victorious in their district semifinals, and the neighborhood rivals will meet for district title tonight.
In the first match, Plant City beat Strawberry Crest 25-11, 23-25, 25-19, 25-16.
After winning the first set easily, Plant City let the second set slip away. The Raiders were ahead 23-21, but Strawberry Crest went on a 4-0 run to earn the set. Plant City kept its focus in the third set and closed it out on a 10-5 run. The Raiders fell behind 7-1 in the fourth set, but they used an 18-4 run to gain control and win the match.
Alex Arnold led Plant City with 16 kills, and Kellie Pernula proved key in the service game with six aces. Danielle Rodriguez had a strong defensive match with 28 digs.
Durant started out sloppy in the nightcap against East Bay but still cruised to a 25-17, 25-11, 25-14 win.
Durant had eight errors in the first set before settling down in the second and third.
Victoria Fanning had 10 kills and Lexi Thompson had nine for Durant.
- Ben Henderson
7A-8: Wiregrass, Steinbrenner in final
TAMPA — Wiregrass Ranch made program history by earning a berth in the regional playoffs with a straight-set win against host Freedom.
The Bulls will meet Steinbrenner, which routed Sickles, in the district final Friday.
It was a big win for Wiregrass Ranch and the emotion was everywhere after its 25-8, 25-21, 25-15 win.
“We are so excited,” senior Grace Olsen said. “We tried so hard to get to this point. We can’t wait for a chance to play Steinbrenner. They are the top seed, but that won’t mean anything on Friday.”
Wiregrass Ranch coach Mindy Kantor was happy the Bulls finally got over the hump to get to regional.
“I don’t know what to think right now, but this team has so much confidence right now,” Kantor said. “We made program history and now we’ll see what happens next.”
Teddi Wright had 28 assists for the Bulls and Olsen added 15 kills. Conner Bennett came away with five blocks and five kills.
The Bulls will face Steinbrenner, which was undefeated in district this year. The Warriors downed Sickles, 25-12, 25-17, 25-17. Coach Laura Stegenga said her team is fired up about Friday, but isn’t looking ahead.
“I knew from Day 1 that these kids were going farther than ever,” Stegenga said.
“They are motivated to go a long way.”
Rachel Mathison and Avery Bradshaw combined for 21 kills for the Warriors, and Lauren Heldt had five blocks.
- Jeff Berlinicke
6A-9: King to take on Hillsborough for title
TAMPA — King junior Alexandra Pividal said the flu bug has been chasing her and her teammates this week, so the team’s verbal communication was a little off in Wednesday’s Class 6A-District 9 semifinal against Armwood.
The calls for positioning and assignments might have been limited, but the Lions’ rhythm seemed unfazed as they topped the Hawks, 25-11, 25-17, 25-17, to advance to tonight’s final at Leto.
“A lot of us are sick so we weren’t really communicating that well,” Pividal said. “But we were able to run some plays up front and got some good serves in. We need to talk more (in the final).”
Top-seeded King (15-4) got started quickly as a seven-point run stretched the lead early in the first game as the Lions’ front line looked poised. Pividal led the way with nine kills and was solid serving, recording six aces in the match, while Arielle Allen had nine kills and a pair of aces.
In the earlier matchup, Hillsborough (14-6) defeated Chamberlain, 25-15, 25-15, 25-20.
The Terriers were led by junior Alex Lutton, who had 16 kills, as well as 10 kills from Laura Paloumpis.
Hillsborough will look to get some payback on King, which topped the Terriers 3-1 in their regular-season meeting Oct. 8, while the Lions try to remain unbeaten against district opponents this season.
- Jarrett Guthrie
5A-8: Anclote, Fivay will meet in rematch
HOLIDAY — Host Anclote and Fivay will meet in a rematch of a district final from last season, as both teams were able to sweep their respective opponents in the Class 5A-District 7 semifinals.
Anclote swept Tarpon Springs, which swept higher seeded Sunlake the previous night, 25-18, 25-20, 25-11. For the Sharks, this will be the team’s second postseason berth in four seasons.
“This is big for us,” Anclote coach Chris Vergnaud said. “We’ve been building this program for the past four years and this means a lot to us. It takes us back to the preseason when we said the district finals is where we want to be.”
The Sharks (21-6) were able to make a return to the final with mostly ease against a feisty Spongers team. Back-to-back kills to close the second set by Anclote’s Aaliyah Anderson gave the Sharks all the momentum they needed to close out the third and final match.
Fivay (21-6), returning to the postseason, swept Dunedin (7-12), 25-22, 25-21, 25-15. After two close sets, Fivay stayed in control after taking a 12-11 lead. Briannah and Ashleigh Nemetz led the team in kills with 23 and 11, respectively.
Falcons outside hitter Amber Lake chipped in with 10 kills, and Jordyn Mattos had three kills and 48 assists.
“There was some tight games in the beginning,” Fivay coach Nikki Pollock said. “We stayed and we fought during the tight situations. It means a lot to us to reach the postseason once again. The girls worked really hard during the offseason to get to another district final.”
- Andy Villamarzo
4A-6: Ridgewood, Hudson fall in semis
HUDSON — Marisa Maksymkow and her Hudson teammates had seen this before.
Earlier in the season, the Cobras dropped their first two sets to The Villages before pulling out a victory with three straight sets. On Wednesday night, after dropping the first two sets, Hudson came out on fire in the third set, thanks in large part to Maksymkow, who had five kills, to propel the Cobras to a 20-11 lead.
“There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win the three sets in a row just like last time.” Maksymkow said.
It was not to be, however, as the Buffalo rallied and won the third set 26-24 to send The Villages into the Class 4A-District 6 final Friday night.
The Villages will be taking on top-seeded Trinity Catholic, which defeated Ridgewood, 25-7, 25-15, 25-13.
Despite a strong effort from Aubree Sigismondi (10 kills), Ridgewood was overwhelmed by the precision passing of Trinity Catholic, specifically setter Sam Blasko. Blasko repeatedly set up front-line teammates Laura Moore, Molly Jank and Jordan Saulsberry for 23 combined kills.
- Steve Campbell