Bobcats relishing return to the final four

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 11:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 11:51 p.m.

After a five-year absence, the Buchholz Bobcats are back in the final four in girls volleyball, taking on nationally ranked Venice in a Class 7A semifinal today at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

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Buchholz Bobcats setter Gaby Rubeis runs to save the ball from going out of bounds against Gainesville earlier this season.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer



Who: Buchholz (27-5) vs. Venice (27-3)
Where: Silver Spurs Arena, Kissimmee When: 2 p.m. today
Up next: Winner will play winner of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas-Lakeland George Jenkins in Wednesday's state final at 6:05 p.m.

The match is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

The Bobcats (27-5), winners of seven straight, advanced after Saturday's 3-1 victory at Orange City University. Buchholz's only other final four appearance came in 2007 and ended with the Class 6A state title.

“We have a great tradition, a great program under Jeff Reavis and Alesha Busch before me and have been to the elite eight six times, but this is only our second final four,” said Buchholz first-year coach Justin Dee. “This is definitely a big thing and something that the girls have earned. It is a tribute to our seniors, how hard they have clawed, got close and have finally made it.”

The Indians (27-3), under longtime coach Brian Wheatley, have won 13 straight and are ranked No. 25 nationally by MaxPreps. Among their wins was a 2-0 victory over Buchholz (28-26, 25-20) at the Berkeley Premier in Tampa on Sept. 22.

In Wheatley's 19 years as coach, Venice has reached the state playoffs 18 times, are in its sixth state semifinal, have played for four state titles and won two of them (5A in 2005 and 1998). Its last final four came in 2009 when it was swept 3-0 by Tallahassee Leon.

Buchholz is led by a trio of seniors in outside hitters Caroline Redmond (589 kills, 242 digs) and Olivia Reed (486 kills, 203 digs, 44 ace serves), and setter Gaby Rubeis (787 assists, 239 kills, 173 digs). Sophomore libero Kelly Collins has a team-high 356 digs and senior Ella Spelman has 21.5 blocks.

Senior outside hitter Holly Mattmuller (451 kills, 466 digs), who will be attending the Coast Guard Academy, leads the Indians. Her younger sister, sophomore Lauren Mattmuller, has 68 blocks and senior defensive specialist Taylor Jais has 614 digs. Sophomore hitter Gen Beaumier is also an offensive force with 369 kills and 52 aces.

“Venice is a great team, a very disciplined team that has a terrific coach,” Dee said. “They have always been good on defense and this year they have a great offensive team as well.

“We weren't the greatest team back then when we last played them, but we have made some strides. If we play as one, as a team, we will be there on Wednesday (in state final). If not, and we play like six individuals, we are coming home on Tuesday.”

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