Ridaught: Area volleyball teams begin quest for state title this week

Seven area volleyball teams won a district title last week. Clockwise from top left: Branford (1A-6), Williston (1A-8), Oak Hall (2A-4), Newberry (1A-7), GHS (6A-4), P.K. Yonge (3A-3) and Santa Fe (4A-5).
Seven area volleyball teams won a district title last week. Clockwise from top left: Branford (1A-6), Williston (1A-8), Oak Hall (2A-4), Newberry (1A-7), GHS (6A-4), P.K. Yonge (3A-3) and Santa Fe (4A-5).
Photos by C.J. Gish

Last week a total of seven volleyball teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area won a district title – Branford (1A-6), Newberry (1A-7), Williston (1A-8), Oak Hall (2A-4), P.K. Yonge (3A-3), Santa Fe (4A-5), and Gainesville (6A-4).

They join six other teams to advance to FHSAA regional play, which begins on Tuesday with the Class 2A-4A Regional Quarterfinals.

Of the 13 teams, a total of seven will host first-round games.

Williston (17-10) is one of six area teams to make the Class 1A state playoffs. They punched their ticket with the 1A-District 8 title but their strength of schedule would have gotten them in as an at-large.

“What an incredible season with an awesome cast of coaches and players,” said Williston coach Kevin Tiller. “As coaches, we sat together last summer on a couple of different occasions and laid out the groundwork for this season.”

Oak Hall's Ave Scorpio (8) with a hit against Williston's Saige Bullock (10) on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Ave Scorpio (8) with a hit against Williston’s Saige Bullock (10) on Aug. 23.

Their strength of schedule and overall record helped them earn the No. 6 overall rank in 1A in the final FHSAA volleyball rankings.

“First thing we all said was that this schedule is even tougher than last year,” Tiller said. “Playing high level volleyball was our goal and I believe we have achieved that goal as we head down the stretch. We wanted to play tougher competition to make us better to be district champs and begin a playoff run. Our girls have bought into everything that was thrown at them and succeeded. Right now for us the goal becomes one game at a time. Next up on Friday is Dixie County.”

Last year the Williston Red Devils lost in the district title game but still ended up making a run to the Class 1A state semifinals.

However, this time they swept Glades Day (Belle Glade) in a rematch.

“We felt like going into the game vs Glades Day that if we could do the simple things well we could come out victorious,” Tiller said. “We also had a little bit of a bad taste still in our mouths from last year when we lost the district championship to them on our home floor. The girls bought into the game plan and from the first serve they came out and did everything we had asked for them to do.”

Williston earned the No. 1 seed in 1A-Region 4. They will host No. 4 seed Dixie County (Cross City) in Friday’s regional semifinals.

“We did not play Dixie County this year at all,” Tiller said. “I do know that they are always a scrappy team on defense and will come out and give us their best shot every point. They seem to have two great hitters in Paris Williams and Kailey Edmonds who we will have to control.”

The game time for Friday’s contest has been moved up. 

“We are excited to host and be in the Devil’s Den for this contest,” Tiller said. “It will be an early start at 5 p.m. to help Dixie with their Homecoming dance festivities, and we have a home football game as well at 7:30 p.m. Busy day on Friday in Red Devil country.”

Newberry, which advanced to its ninth straight district title game last week, rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Chiefland, 3-1, in the 1A-District 7 championship game.

“Set one Chiefland came out on fire,” said Newberry coach Hank Rone. “Hitting some good shots and blocking us. We hit a few out of bounds and were down 17-5. We settled down and clawed back into set one, but Chiefland won (25-21). Set two we had a 24-20 lead and Chiefland battled back to 24-23 before Hailey (Tharp) knocked down the winning shot. We could have easily been down 0-2. Give credit to Chiefland, Coach (Karen) Bailey always has her teams well prepared.”

The Panthers (13-14) earned the No. 2 seed in 1A-Region 4 and will get Chiefland, the No. 3 seed, again at home this Friday at 7 p.m. 

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Newberry's Chloe Jones had 11 kills for the Panthers against Valdosta (GA) on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Newberry’s Chloe Jones had 11 kills for the Panthers against Valdosta (GA) on Sept. 14.

Newberry has won all three meetings against the Indians (13-11) this season.

“The fourth time playing them is going to be harder,” Rone said. “Every time we have played them they have performed better. Chiefland has some young players that have really been coached up and are a lot better now. Their two seniors are dynamic players. Lauren (Bailey) and Claire (Horne) can put on a show and can be hard to stop when they get it going.”

The winner will face either Williston or Dixie County in the region final next Tuesday, Oct. 31.

“Against Chiefland, we have to eliminate our errors and be more consistent to win,” Rone said. “You’re not going to stop Claire. You have to try and slow down a few of her big hits by putting up a good block or making a few digs. I look for another competitive game come Friday night at Newberry Gym.”

Branford is the highest ranked 1A team at No. 2 behind Blountstown.

The Buccaneers (22-4), who won a rematch against Union County (Lake Butler) for the 1A-District 6 crown with a sweep of the Tigers last Thursday, are the No. 1 seed 1A-Region 3 and will host No. 4 seed Aucilla Christian (Monticello).

Union County, which is the No. 2 seed, hosts No. 3 seed Lafayette (Mayo) in the other regional semifinal.

Oak Hall School captured the 2A-District 4 title with a sweep of Countryside Christian last Thursday.

“I am extremely proud of the district championship that we won last week,” said Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald. “It is the third straight district title that these young women have achieved. I can also tell you that we were watching the MaxPreps and FHSAA rankings religiously over the past few weeks hoping that we would be able to pull of the top seed in our region.”

As the top seed in 2A-Region 1, the Eagles (22-4) would host for the first three rounds leading up to this year’s final four, which will be played at a neutral site.

The FHSAA Volleyball state championships (semifinals and title games for all seven classifications) will be held at Polk State College on Nov. 6-11.

“Everyone in our program is now excited to be the No. 1 seed and to host all three rounds of the regional playoffs at Oak Hall if we can continue to win,” McDonald said.

The Eagles begin their quest for a state title on Tuesday at home against No. 8 seed North Florida Christian (Tallahassee). The visiting Eagles are 8-14 this year.

Santa Fe's Anna Carlisle with a hit against Eastside on Wednesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Santa Fe’s Anna Carlisle with a hit against Eastside on Wednesday.

“On a side note, in my opinion, the team in our area that has the best chance of winning a state title this year is Williston,” McDonald said. “They have played such a tough schedule and have been competing strongly with many of their toughest opponents. I don’t think the top Class 1A seeds know what’s coming in the playoffs.”

Countryside Christian earned the No. 5 seed in 2A-Region 1 and will travel to No. 4 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park), while No. 7 seed St. Francis Catholic Academy plays at No. 2 seed Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville).

P.K. Yonge (12-9) swept Interlachen in the 3A-District 3 championship game. The Blue Wave (12-9) earned the No. 8 seed in 3A-Region 1 and will travel to top seed Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville), which is the No. 5 team in 3A in the FHSAA final rankings.

Two-time defending
 state champion Santa Fe (Alachua) cruised to the 4A-District 5 title against Eastside. The Raiders (19-8) are the No. 2 seed in 4A-Region 2 and will host No. 7 seed Titusville in Tuesday’s regional quarterfinals.

The 5A-7A quarterfinals begin on Wednesday.

In Class 5A, Columbia (Lake City) makes its first appearance in the state playoffs in 11 years.

“This team is truly special,” said Columbia coach Trudy Andrews. “The one thing that makes them so special is their competitiveness and trust in each other. They trust each other and bring that competitiveness each time they step onto the court. Every match, every practice they just want to challenge themselves, do their best and improve each match.”

The Lady Tigers (16-8), who lost in four sets to Vanguard (Ocala) in the 5A-District 2 Semifinals, are the No. 7 seed in 5A-Region 1 and will travel to No. 2 seed Ridgeview (Orange Park) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

“It means the world to the program to make the postseason,” Andrews said. “I believe this is only the fourth time in school history to make regionals. This team has accomplished many milestones this season and look forward to continuing to build on this success. The administration, staff and community are always supportive and play a huge part in the success of the team. The key in beating Ridgeview is to play our game, stay composed and execute our game plan.”

Gainesville won its first district title in 12 years
 with a sweep of New Smyrna Beach in the 6A-District 4 championship game.

The Hurricanes (19-7) earned the No. 3 seed in 6A-Region 1 and will host No. 6 seed Navarre at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

The 1A-4A regional semifinals are on Friday, Oct. 27, and the 5A-7A regional semifinals are scheduled for this Saturday.

2023 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs

All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted
Times & dates are subject to change

Tuesday, Oct. 24

Class 2A-4A Regional Quarterfinals

Class 2A-Region 1
No. 8 North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) at No. 1 Oak Hall
No. 5 Countryside Christian at No. 4 St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park)
No. 7 St. Francis Catholic Academy at No. 2 Christ’s Church Academy (Jacksonville)

Class 3A-Region 1
No. 8 P.K. Yonge at No. 1 Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville)

Class 4A-Region 2
No. 7 Titusville at No. 2 Santa Fe (Alachua)

Wednesday, Oct. 25

Class 5A-7A Regional Quarterfinals

Class 5A-Region 1
No. 7 Columbia (Lake City) at No. 2 Ridgeview (Orange Park)

Class 6A-Region 1
No. 6 Navarre at No. 3 Gainesville, 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 27

Class 1A-4A Regional Semifinals

2A-4A (TBD)

Class 1A-Region 3
No. 4 Aucilla Christian (Monticello) at No. 1 Branford
No. 3 Lafayette (Mayo) at No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler)

Class 1A-Region 4
No. 4 Dixie County (Cross City) at No. 1 Williston, 5 p.m.
No. 3 Chiefland at No. 2 Newberry

Saturday, Oct. 28

Class 5A-7A Regional Semifinals (TBD)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional quotes.

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