Eagles denied second straight state semifinal

Oak Hall huddle before its Class 2A-Region 1 Final against Christ’s Church Academy on Tuesday.
Oak Hall huddle before its Class 2A-Region 1 Final against Christ’s Church Academy on Tuesday. (Photo by Mike Ridaught)

There were some similarities between No. 2 seed Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville) and top seed Oak Hall School in last night’s Class 2A-Region 1 Final.

They’re both nicknamed Eagles, and they were both pretty evenly matched.

In fact, the match went to a fifth set.

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However, there were plenty of differences too in CCA’s 25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 18-25, 15-11 road victory to advance the visiting Eagles (19-5) to the state semifinals.

Oak Hall’s season ended at 24-5 and one game shy of back-to-back state semifinal appearances.

“First and foremost, give credit to Christ’s Church,” said Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald. “I knew they were just an extraordinary scrappy, well-coached defensive team. They absolutely out defended us. They out served us and they absolutely outperformed us on serve receive with the exception of the fourth set when we kind of broke them down a little bit.”

Down 2-1 in the fourth set, the serving got hot for Oak Hall as sophomore Emma Raulerson had three aces to help lead the Eagles back from an early 9-7 deficit.

Sophomore Cassidy McDonald started an 8-0 run with a kill, coupled with Raulerson’s service points and three kills by junior Pene Moser, who had a monster night with a game-high 31 kills, plus 24 digs and one block.

Following a kill by CCA freshman Julia Howard (16 kills), OHS’ Amelia Chen (24 digs, 15 service points, 6 aces) added two aces as part of a 4-0 run to extend the lead to 19-10 as the Eagles evened the match at 2-games apiece.

Oak Hall's Pene Moser serving on Tuesday in the Class 2A-Region 1 Final against Christ’s Church Academy.
Photo by Mike Ridaught Oak Hall’s Pene Moser serving on Tuesday in the Class 2A-Region 1 Final against Christ’s Church Academy.

But it was a serve by McDonald (44 assists, 13 kills, 18 digs, 3 aces, 1 block) in the fifth set that could have proved to be the difference.

Up 4-2 in the final set, McDonald delivered an ace and a 5-2 lead.

However, CCA argued that the line judge was in the way of the player who was pursuing the ball so it was ruled a replay, taking away the Eagles’ fifth point.

A double hit on the next point made it 4-3 and then the visiting Eagles tied it 4-4 on an ace by sophomore Gracie Achtemeier.

“It was definitely a potential momentum lynch pin there,” said McDonald, who didn’t like the call and felt it was out of bounds.

Nonetheless, Oak Hall seized control with consecutive kills by junior Ave Scorpio (15 kills, 2 blocks) for a 6-4 lead.

Oak Hall was also down 11-7 in the decisive fifth set but rallied to tie it at 11-11 thanks to a kill by McDonald and an ace by sophomore Sara Duggan as part of the 4-0 run.

CCA answered and was able to seize back the momentum by finishing the game with its own 4-0 run which ended with a kill by junior Sydney Kambach (45 assists, 19 digs, 4 aces).

“At the end of the day you just have to make plays,” McDonald said. “Christ’s Church did, we did not. We gave up some tough passes and a few aces and didn’t execute well in the last four points and I think therein lies the difference between two evenly matched teams and two good programs, so I certainly wish them a lot of luck and hope they do well.”

Kambach had three of her four aces in the second set, including the final point of a 25-22 win to give the visiting Eagles a 2-0 lead.

“When our passing struggled, especially on the serve receive side, the game did not come easy for us tonight,” McDonald said.

Junior Nadia Mortensen, who had 19 digs, led CCA with 18 kills

Despite the struggles for Oak Hall, which played the entire night without injured Haley Janes (3rd on the team in kills), McDonald was disappointed, but proud of his team.

“At the very beginning (of the season) there is no way we imagined we would be in this position,” McDonald said. “With everything we have accomplished though, it stings more because we knew that we should be able to come through and execute. We felt like we should have been able to win this match, but at the end of the day give them credit. They performed well. It’s been a great season.”

Tuesday scores

Class 4A-Region 2 Final

No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 3, No. 2 Bishop Moore (Orlando) 0

Class 2A-Region 1 Final

No. 2 Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville) 3, No. 1 Oak Hall 2

Class 1A-Region 3 Final

No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler) 3, No. 1 Aucilla Christian (Monticello) 0

Class 1A-Region 4 Final

No. 1 Williston 3, No. 3 Glades Day (Belle Glade) 2

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