With its back against the wall, Williston came from two sets down to beat Newberry on Friday in a Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinal.
The top seeded Red Devils (18-10) topped the visiting No. 4 seed Panthers, 23-25, 12-25, 25-14, 25-21, 15-5.
Newberry (11-16), which entered the match coming off a 5-set loss to Dixie County (Cross City) on Oct. 20 in the 1A District 7 championship, only trailed once in the first set. The Panthers jumped out to leads of 8-3 and 18-11 before Williston tied the contest 21-21 on a Karley Jerrels service ace and then went ahead 22-21 on a Panthers hit into the net. The Panthers regained the lead and capped off the first set on an Alexis Boyd kill.
In the second set, Newberry led from start to finish with multiple kills from Chloe Jones and Sarah Watson. Williston got within 14-9 before the Panthers went on an 11-3 run – highlighted by kills from Hannah Rone, Jones and Boyd before McKenzie Moses served the set-winning ace for the 25-12 win.
Down 2-0, Williston first-year coach Kevin Tiller said the message was simple going into the third set.
“It was ‘don’t quit,’” he said. “Those have been the words we have just poured into these girls back when we turned this program over, coach Andre (Medina) and coach Chelsea (Graham). Coach Andre just went in there and ran the huddle and said, ‘hey, it’s up to y’all. We’ve done everything we could since June 1, we’ve put you in the right position and we’ve done everything we could do, now you’ve got to go play.’”
Tiller added the Red Devils needed to pick up the intensity.
“We had to get some 50/50 balls,” he said. “I thought we didn’t get a lot of those the first two sets. We had to get the tips, we had to get on the floor a little bit more. I didn’t think we showed a whole lot of energy in those first two sets.”
The third set witnessed a complete turnaround with Grace Dola setting the tone with a kill for the first Williston point. The Red Devils never trailed as Dola had six kills and Addison Mayes added five in the 25-14 win.
“When you bury somebody 25-12 you’ve got to go out and put the pressure on them and they came out on fire (in the third set) and never let it go,” said Newberry coach Hank Rone. “That’s the big thing. We got conservative, we started tipping instead of hitting hoping they would make a mistake and you just can’t do that against a good team. You have to take it to them and earn those points.”
The fourth set was a hard-fought battle with Williston leading throughout while Newberry stayed close. The Red Devils never led by more than four. The Panthers climbed within 22-20, but a Dola kill, two Newberry hitting errors and a serve out of bounds gave Williston the 25-21 win.
“The fourth set, we battled with them a little bit,” Rone said. “I thought we might get that one in, but then we made a couple of errors at the end of the set.”
With momentum on its side, Williston easily swept through the final set, 15-5.
“They just came out and played Red Devil volleyball the last three sets,” Tiller said. “Grace Dola carried us. She hit some shots tonight that were just crazy.”
For Dola, the junior said she was thinking of the team’s three seniors who hadn’t won a district or regional championship.
“Williston hasn’t won a district or regional championship in five years, so no one on the team has had this and I think it lit a fire underneath our butts and we’re like, ‘we’re winning not only for our seniors, but we’ve come this far, we’re putting Williston on the map,’” Dola said. “We’re letting people know you don’t mess with Williston volleyball.
For Newberry, it was a frustrating way to end a season of close losses.
“That was a tough one,” Rone said. “That was kind of our season this year. We just never learned how to finish games against competition I feel we were even with.”
But Rone added that he was proud that Newberry advanced this far.
“We’ve kept the tradition,” he said. “This is eight years in a row we’ve been in the (state) playoffs, so that’s something to be proud of. Since 2015, Newberry’s been in the playoffs. That’s a good record and we want to keep it going next year. Hopefully next year we come back and win the district and set ourselves up with a little better opportunity.”
Williston will now host Glades Day (Belle Glade) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the regional final. It will be a rematch for the Class 1A-District 8 championship, in which Glades Day swept Williston for the title on Oct. 20.
Union County 3, Branford 1
For the second time in a week, the Union County volleyball team defeated Branford.
After defeating the Bucs (19-7) in four sets to win the Class 1A-District 6 title on Oct. 20, the host No. 2 seed Tigers defeated No. 3 Branford 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 27-25 in a Class 1A-Region 3 semifinal.
“We played together as a team and were able to spread out our offense which opened up the net for our hitters,” said first-year Union County coach Tifani Knox. “We passed well and made smart decisions with the ball which helped us. We are looking forward to Tuesday and playing Aucilla Christian.”
The Tigers (19-7) will travel to Monticello on Tuesday night to face top seed Aucilla Christian in the region final. The Warriors swept Hilliard in the other regional semifinal.
Oak Hall 3, Harvest Community School (Jacksonville) 2
Oak Hall won a dramatic and hard-fought victory against visiting No. 4 seed Harvest Community School (Jacksonville) 25-22, 26-24, 20-25, 20-25, 15-3 in a Class 2A-Region 1 Semifinal.
The top seeded Eagles got a stellar 91 dig team performance.
Freshman libero Amelia Chen tallied 22 digs, 21 service points and eight aces, including five straight points and three aces to start set 5.
“Tonight’s victory over Harvest Community school was the best victory I have had in my three years as the head coach at Oak Hall,” said Eagles’ coach Perry McDonald. “The truly miraculous part is that we were able to overcome a 19-14 deficit in set one and a 20-13 deficit in set two against an exceptionally talented and well balanced Harvest team.”
Sophomore setter, Cassidy McDonald had 35 assists, 14 digs, 15 service points and five aces, including a dramatic 8-point run with four aces, to lead Oak Hall back from a 20-13 deficit in the second set.
Junior outside hitter Pene Moser had a team high 25 kills, 4 blocks and 13 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Sarah Miller had 18 digs.
“This victory brought tears to my eyes because of how well these girls competed, overcame adversity and ultimately found a way to win,” McDonald said. “Danny Glover best articulated how I felt tonight in the Lethal Weapon series, ‘I’m too old for this…!’ All the credit goes to the girls for finding a way to win tonight.”
The Eagles will be at home on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against No. 2 seed Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville), which swept No. 3 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) in the other regional semifinal.
Glades Day (Belle Glade) 3, Dixie County (Cross City) 0
Class 1A-District 8 champion and No. 3 seed Glades Day (Belle Glade) swept No. 2 seed Dixie County, the Class 1A-District 7 winner, in Cross City, 25-18, 25-15, 25-20, on Friday.
2022 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs
TUE., OCT. 25 – REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS
Class 2A-Region 1
No. 1 Oak Hall School 3, No. 8 St. John Paul II (Tallahassee) 0
No. 3 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) 3, No. 6 Countryside Christian 0
Class 3A-Region 1
No. 1 Trinity Catholic (Ocala) 3, No. 8 P.K. Yonge 0
Class 4A-Region 1
No. 3 South Walton (Santa Rosa Beach) 3, No. 6 Keystone Heights 0
Class 4A-Region 2
No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 3, No. 8 Space Coast (Cocoa) 0
WED., OCT. 26 – REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS
Class 6A-Region 1
No. 3 Mosley (Lynn Haven) 3, No. 6 Gainesville 0 – Hurricanes end the season with a 20-8 record. It was the first time in 18 years since GHS had a 20-win season.
THU., OCT. 27 – REGIONAL SEMIFINALS (CLASS 4A)
Class 4A-Region 2
No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 3, No. 5 Astronaut (Titusville) 0 (Moved to Thursday, Oct. 27)
FRI., OCT. 28 – REGIONAL SEMIFINALS (CLASS 1A-2A)
Class 1A-Region 3
No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler) 3, No. 3 Branford 1
Class 1A-Region 4
No. 1 Williston 3, No. 4 Newberry 2
No. 3 Glades Day (Belle Glade) 3, No. 2 Dixie County (Cross City) 0
Class 2A-Region 1
No. 1 Oak Hall School 3, No. 4 Harvest Community (Jacksonville) 2