Volleyball state playoffs begin today

Volleyball state playoffs starting montage
Volleyball regional playoffs begin Tuesday and Wednesday for Oak Hall, Keystone Heights, Santa Fe, Gainesville and P.K. Yonge. (Photos by C.J. Gish)

A total of 11 teams in the Mainstreet coverage area made the 2022 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs.

Five of those teams, Oak Hall School and Countryside Christian in Class 2A, P.K. Yonge in 3A, and Santa Fe and Keystone Heights in 4A, are in action tonight as regional play begins.

Santa Fe (25-2), which is the No. 2 overall team in the state of Florida according to MaxPreps, is one of three area No. 1 seeds (4A-Region 2), along with Oak Hall School (Class 2A-Region 1), and Williston (1A-Region 4).

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The Raiders, who are seeking back-to-back 4A state titles, are led by Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball Jalyn Stout. The senior leads the way with 465 kills.

Santa Fe, which swept North Marion last Thursday to win the 4A-District 5 title, will host No. 8 seed Space Coast (Cocoa) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Keystone Heights earned an at-large bid. The No. 6 Indians (17-7), who lost at Bolles (Jacksonville) in the 4A-District 4 semifinals, travel to No. 3 South Walton (Santa Rosa Beach).

P.K. Yonge won the Class 3A-District 3 title with a sweep of Bradford (Starke). However, the Blue Wave (14-10) will be traveling as a district champion.

They get top seed and state champion hopeful Trinity Catholic in Ocala.

The Celtics (17-3), who won the 3A state title in 2020, lost in the 3A state semifinals last year to eventual state champion Calvary Christian (Clearwater).

Oak Hall, which lost in the 2A state semifinals last year to eventual state champion Seacrest Country Day (Naples), defeated Countryside Christian in last week’s 2A-District 4 championship game. Both teams advanced to regional play.

The Eagles lost Player of the Year Sophia Aulisio and two other All-Area seniors to graduation, then in July they “were surprised by the unexpected transfer of two other players,” according to Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald.

Yet, three months later, they’ve secured a 22-4 overall record, a championship at the 16-team Keswick Christian Invitational, a district title and the No. 1 seed in 2A-Region 1.

“If you had asked me at the start of the summer to predict how this team was going to do this season, my prognostications would not have come close to the reality that these girls have experienced and earned,” McDonald said. “The next task is to take the lessons and confidence that these girls have earned from these experiences and refine them into something stronger and better with the hopes of making another deep playoff run.”

As the top seed, Oak Hall will host No. 8 seed St. John Paul II (Tallahassee) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

“St John Paul II out of Tallahassee is not an easy first round draw,” McDonald said. “They are a tall group of battle tested district champions that will come to our gym eager to prove that they are the better team.”

The visiting Panthers (12-14), who won the 2A-District 1 title, played a tough schedule and are led by junior outside hitter, Ava Lake, who McDonald said is “a high leaping, hard-hitting, jump-server who accumulated almost 200 kills on the season.”

Lake is complimented by senior, Aimee Ijeoma, who McDonald said is “a tall and effective middle blocker who racked up 53 blocks this season.”

“The key to beating them will be modifying our defense to try and limit their most frequently used attack tendencies and for us to dictate the tempo of play with strong serving, unrelenting defensive effort and deceptive and powerful attacks to keep St John Paul II off balance,” McDonald said.

While Oak Hall had been there and knew what was at stake, Countryside Christian coach Michelle Seibold was a bit taken aback.

“I am new to the coaching world with this only my third year coaching and we haven’t made it to the championship matches of our league and district in my previous years, so I didn’t know this was possible,” she said. “The girls believed that we would play this week, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’m excited for them and especially for our one senior, Hallie Robertson, that they get to keep going.”

The No. 6 Cougars (10-11), who will travel to No. 3 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park), played a tough schedule. However, it wasn’t Seibold who did the scheduling.

“Our athletic director made the schedule and I assume he knew about this change,” Seibold said. “After the first couple weeks of the season, I wondered why we were playing all the teams that were bigger schools, bigger teams, and taller players. Now I guess it paid off for the postseason.”

Gainesville High, which won 20 games this year for the first time in 18 years, lost to New Smyrna Beach, the No. 3 overall team in Florida by MaxPreps, 3-1, in the 6A-District 4 championship game.

The Hurricanes (20-7) received an at-large bid in Class 6A-Region 1. GHS, which is seeded sixth, will travel to No. 3 Mosley (Lynn Haven) on Wednesday.

The Class 1A playoffs will begin on Friday with regional semifinal play for classes 1A-4A.

2022 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs

TUE., OCT. 25 – REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS

Class 2A-Region 1

No. 8 St. John Paul II at No. 1 Oak Hall School, 6 p.m.

No. 6 Countryside Christian at No. 3 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park), 7 p.m.

Class 3A-Region 1

No. 8 P.K. Yonge at No. 1 Trinity Catholic (Ocala), 7 p.m.

Class 4A-Region 1

No. 6 Keystone Heights at No. 3 South Walton (Santa Rosa Beach), 7 p.m.

Class 4A-Region 2

No. 8 Space Coast (Cocoa) at No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua), 7 p.m.

WED., OCT. 26 – REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS

Class 6A-Region 1

No. 6 Gainesville at No. 3 Mosley (Lynn Haven), 7 p.m.

FRIDAY, OCT. 28 – REGIONAL SEMIFINALS (1A-4A)

Class 1A-Region 3

No. 3 Branford at No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler), 7 p.m.

Class 1A-Region 4

No. 4 Newberry at No. 1 Williston, 7 p.m.

No. 3 Glades Day (Belle Glade) at No. 2 Dixie County (Cross City), 7 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 29 – REGIONAL SEMIFINALS (5A-7A)

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