Buchholz volleyball falls in five sets in state semifinals

Buchholz players, from left, Ella Spelman, Julie Fuchs and Olivia Reed jump to block a spike by Venice's Holly Mattmuller during the Class 7A state semifinal in Kissimmee on Tuesday afternoon.

Bruce Ackerman/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:56 a.m.

KISSIMMEE — Sometimes your best isn't quite enough.

That's what Buchholz learned Tuesday in the Class 7A state semifinals at Silver Spurs Arena, where the Bobcats stretched nationally ranked Venice to its limit and beyond before falling short in a five-set thriller, 25-20, 20-25, 25-16, 19-25, 10-15.

"To play a team like Venice and push them all the way to the end was just an amazing experience to be able to accomplish," first-year Buchholz coach Justin Dee said. "Sitting on the sideline and being able to hear these girls and know their heart and know their drive, just their effort today was absolutely amazing. I'd love to say stuff about Venice, but I'm really proud of our team and of our seniors."

Venice (27-3) entered the match as heavy favorites with a No. 20 national ranking, but it was Buchholz (27-6) that came out throwing haymakers.

With Caroline Redmond (25 kills, 18 digs), Ella Spelman (13 kills) and Gaby Rubeis (seven kills, two blocks, 12 digs, 43 assists) spearheading the attack, Buchholz stole the first set and played toe-to-toe with Venice in the second before dropping it.

Then the Bobcats played their finest volleyball in the third with a combination of stifling team defense and heavy hitting by Redmond and Spelman. The 25-16 win put the Indians on the ropes, but it also forced them into survival mode.

That's exactly what Venice did, riding the hot hands of Holly Mattmuller (25 kills, 15 digs) and Gen Beaumier (18 kills, 10 digs) to a 16-5 lead in the fourth set — which Buchholz nearly erased with a 9-2 surge before succumbing — and a runaway win in the fifth.

"We had a lot of things thrown at us and they kept their cool, they kept believing," Venice coach Brian Wheatley said. "Buchholz gave us a great match. I'm sure it was an awesome match to watch. It was a fantastic semifinal, and both teams played really well."

The Bobcats fell short in their second trip to the final four and first since their 2007 state championship (Class 6A), but considering the way they played and the level of their competition, there wasn't much to be upset about afterward.

"We finally got over a hump by winning regional finals and getting to the final four, so I don't regret anything," Rubeis said.

"Everybody wants to win, but I thought we played our hearts out."

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