Oak Hall rallies from 2-1 deficit to advance to 2A state semifinals

Oak Hall's Pene Moser with a hit against Christ's Church Academy on Tuesday.
Oak Hall's Pene Moser with a hit against Christ's Church Academy on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Things got a little scary for the Oak Hall School volleyball team on Tuesday night and it had nothing to do with Halloween.

The host Eagles played most of their Class 2A-Region 1 Final against visiting Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville) without senior Ave Scorpio.

They lost the opening set, were demolished in the third set, yet rallied to win 22-25, 25-21, 9-25, 25-17, 15-6 and advance to the Class 2A state semifinals.

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Scorpio, who was second on the team with 247 kills, sprained her ankle at practice on Monday night. She only played three rotations early in set one and was in too much pain to continue.

“We played without her the rest of the night,” said Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald.

The opening set was a back-and-forth set featuring eight lead changes.

The visiting Eagles (19-8) pulled away late, taking a 24-19 lead, but the host Eagles didn’t give up.

Oak Hall's Haley Janes with a hit against Christ's Church Academy on Tuesday. (2)
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Haley Janes with a hit against Christ’s Church Academy on Tuesday. (2)

Senior Pene Moser (20 kills, 11 digs, nine service points, three blocks) had three straight kills to make it a two-point game before CCA’s Gracie Achtemeier had the decisive kill to win the first set, 25-22.

After another incredibly competitive set, Oak Hall tied the match at 1-1.

But that’s when the wheels came off for Oak Hall as CCA pummeled them 25-9 to take a 2-1 lead.

“Lesser teams would have folded up their tents and gone home after set three,” McDonald said. “I cannot express how proud I am of the resilience and perseverance that the Oak Hall girls displayed as they punched their ticket to the Final Four. Tonight was special and I feel privileged to have shared this experience with the players, the fans and the Oak Hall community.”

Oak Hall's Cassidy McDonald (12) and Kendylle Bishop (14) attempt a block against Christ's Church Academy on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Cassidy McDonald (12) and Kendylle Bishop (14) attempt a block against Christ’s Church Academy on Tuesday.

With the season on the line in the fourth set, Oak Hall made a few defensive adjustments and managed to open up a 15-12 lead when freshmen defensive specialist Nicollette Aulisio scored consecutive aces.

On Aulisio’s third serve, sophomore super sub Josie Pickens made an incredible one handed, diving dig that lead to a kill by sophomore outside hitter Haley Janes, extending Oak Hall’s lead to 18-12.

Janes finished the night with 10 kills and no errors.

“That was so vital tonight to get that production from her,” McDonald said.

The Eagles never looked back as they took the fourth set, 25-17.

In the decisive fifth set Oak Hall continued its unrelenting onslaught, jumping out to a 5-1 lead en route to a 15-6 victory and a ticket to Monday’s Class 2A state semifinals at Polk State College in Winter Haven.

“I’m still processing the fact that we managed to stay composed after set 3’s 9-25 debacle,” McDonald said. “Defense was so big.”

Junior Cassidy McDonald filled up the stat sheet for Oak Hall (25-4) with 28 assists, 17 kills, 17 digs, seven service points, four aces and five blocks.

Oak Hall's Shyla Akri (5) and Emma Raulerson (15) attempt a block against against Christ's Church Academy on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Shyla Akri (5) and Emma Raulerson (15) attempt a block against Christ’s Church Academy on Tuesday.

Junior defensive specialist Sara Duggan finished with 24 digs, eight service points, and one ace, while junior libero Sarah Miller added 25 digs.

Last year, OHS lost in five sets at home to CCA in the regional final.

But on Tuesday night they got revenge and advanced to their second state semifinal in three years.

“It was definitely one of the best wins I’ve had,” McDonald said.

Oak Hall, the No. 4 seed of the four remaining teams, will play No. 1 seed Boca Christian School (26-3) at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Class 2A state semifinals.

The winner will play for the Class 2A state title at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.

2023 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs

Tuesday, Oct. 31

Class 1A-4A Regional Finals

Class 1A-Region 3

No. 1 Branford d. No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler) 25-11, 25-7, 21-25, 25-22

Class 1A-Region 4

No. 2 Newberry d. No. 1 Williston 16-25, 25-21, 25-21, 19-25, 15-13

Class 2A-Region 1

No. 1 Oak Hall d. No. 2 Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville) 22-25, 25-21, 9-25, 25-17, 15-6

Wednesday, Nov. 1

Class 4A-Region 2

No. 2 Santa Fe (Alachua) at No. 1 Bishop Moore (Orlando), 7 p.m.

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