HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

Roundup: Oak Hall falls in district semifinals


Oak Hall coach Cari Martin signals to her players during the Eagles' 3-0 win over Newberry on Sept. 19. Oak Hall's season ended Tuesday in a 3-2 loss at home against St. Johns County Day.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

Just like they had done twice in the regular season, Oak Hall and Orange Park St. Johns Country Day's volleyball teams went five sets Tuesday, but the stakes were much higher this time.

With a spot in Thursday's league championship on the line, as well as a state playoff berth, the visiting Spartans did it again, turning back the host Eagles 3-2 in the District 3-3A tournament semifinals.

With its 25-23, 25-19, 21-25, 22-25, 15-7 victory, Country Day, the No. 2 seed, advances to face top seed and Class 3A No. 1 St. Francis, which swept St. Augustine St. Joseph 3-0 in the earlier semifinal. Thursday's title match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Oak Hall.

Down 0-2 on their home court, the Eagles, behind 16-12 in the third set, rallied back, outscoring the Spartans 6-2 down the stretch for the win. Then, in set four, broke from an 18-18 tie and won it on a drop shot from lone senior Kelsie Tebbett, forcing a deciding fifth set.

All the momentum the Eagles (11-14) built quickly went away in the 15-point fifth set as Country Day opened a 10-0 lead before the Eagles scored their first point. Oak Hall scored five straight points to trail 10-5. It pulled to within 11-7, but the Spartans closed the match winning the final four points to reach their first district final since 2009.

Country Day (20-6) was led by 6-foot-2 sophomore middle blocker Madison Dill, who had 24 kills and took over in the fifth.

“You saw No. 9 just take over, like she has done both times when we played them before,” said longtime Oak Hall coach Cari Martin. “When we go to five games, she just says give me the ball.

“I am proud as heck of us. It was back and forth. In the fifth, I think it was everything they did. They turned it on. We had a little bit of hesitancy maybe. Give my girls credit for battling back. When you spot them 10 and all they need to go is 15 with five to give against a good team like that, you have your work cut out for you.”

Junior outside hitter Sky Martin finished with 25 kills and 15 digs to lead the Eagles. Brooke Evans had 24 assists and 15 digs, and Tebbett had five kills, four blocks and three aces.

Alley Lindner had 40 assists and Brooke Arnett 11 digs for the Spartans, who in their previous two meetings with Oak Hall rallied from 0-2 holes to win in five sets.

“We knew coming into it to beat a good team three times in one season was going to be very challenging,” said Country Day coach Traci Livingston. “I knew they were going to come to play and they did.”

The first set had 10 ties, the final being at 23-23 before Dill ended it in the Spartans favor with back-to-back kills. With the second set tied at 15-all, Dill struck again, getting three kills as Country Day went on a 7-1 run for a 22-16 lead that Oak Hall never recovered from.

Martin's kills and the overall play of the Eagles kept them in it, winning tight contests in both the third and fourth sets.

But in the fifth set, Martin rarely had an opportunity as a result of effective serving by Country Day.

“We were trying to get her the ball, but they were serving so well we couldn't give her the ball,” Cari Martin said. “It comes down to serving.

“My entire team contributed tonight. I couldn't be more proud of them. Hopefully, they will take that into next year.”

Country Day has lost both regular-season meetings with St. Francis by 3-0 scores.

“We will show up to play and see what happens,” Livingston said. “We are the underdogs. We have nothing to lose. I don't think they have been contended much in our district.”

ST. FRANCIS 3, ST. JOSEPH 0: Ann Lorrayne Bzoch had 17 digs, Allison Benton had nine kills and Farah Rajaee had 27 assists as the Wolves cruised to a 25-8, 25-8, 25-11 semifinal win in the District 3-3A tournament semifinals.

With the victory, St. Francis (23-3) clinched a playoff berth and will play St. Johns Country Day in Thursday's championship at 7 p.m.

All season, Wolves players talked about the importance of 10-22, the opening date of the district tournament. They dominated from the start and were never really seriously challenged.

“We didn't have to write it on our wrists for the first time,” said St. Francis coach Nick Cheronis. “I told them the worst thing we can do right now is to be caught looking ahead. I urged them in this match to stay in the moment, stay focused from beginning to end.

“We did that pretty well for two sets. In the third set, we didn't do that very well. I credit St. Joseph with making us work for it.”

Last year, the Wolves reached their first state final.

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