For the third time in four years, Santa Fe will battle for a state volleyball title following a sweep in the state semifinals Saturday in Alachua.
The Raiders, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, improved to 28-3 after defeating Academy of the Holy Names (Tampa), 25-21, 25-13, 26-24.
Santa Fe took home second-place finishes in Class 6A in 2018 and Class 4A in 2019. The Raiders have won 14 straight, including six-straight 3-0 match sweeps throughout the district and regional playoffs.
The Jaguars (21-9) entered the match attempting to shut down Santa Fe’s vaunted hitting duo of senior Rylie Tam and junior Jalyn Stout, who both had more than 370 kills apiece heading into the contest.
“Rylie Tam is who they focused on,” Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall said.
The Jaguars’ strategy of shutting down the Raiders’ offense at the net kept the first set close and they took a 6-4 lead. But it didn’t take long for Santa Fe to ignite behind three Stout kills, two Anisa Dorlouis blocks and kills from Tam and Joselynn Sanjurjo to take go ahead 13-10.
“I thought we played really well defensively,” Marshall said. “[Academy of the Holy Names] doesn’t make a lot of errors and they keep the ball in play. So we had to be able to match their intensity and I think their coach did a fantastic job in getting them ready to go, but our team’s got a lot of heart.”
Academy of the Holy Names would climb within 21-17 before two Tam kills and a set-winning Stout kill gave the Raiders the win.
In the second set, the Raiders led from start to finish as the Jaguars got within 6-5 before Santa Fe went on a 19-8 run to go up 2-0.
The third set started as though Santa Fe would easily run away, jumping to a 7-1 lead behind two Dorlouis kills and a kill apiece from Tam and Sanjurjo, but the Jaguars put up a fight, climbing within 16-12, 22-19, and tying the set at 24-all before Santa Fe clinched the win when the Jags hit a serve into the net and the Raiders served an ace.
“I think Jalyn Stout reached a whole new level, she was unstoppable at the end,” Marshall said.
Stout led the Raiders with 15 kills followed by Tam with 12 kills and four blocks. Dorlouis had 21 assists, six kills and two blocks.
Santa Fe will play Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale) for the state championship at 4 p.m., Wednesday, at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Meyers.
The Eagles (26-4) defeated Bishop Moore, 25-19, 24-26, 27-25, 20-25, 15-11, in the other state semifinal match Saturday.
Heading into the title match, Marshall pointed to serving the ball well being the key to win.
“Both teams will be able to defend, both teams will be able to serve receive, both teams will be able to block,” Marshall said. “So we’re going to have to get their backs against the wall with our serves.”
Class 2A State Semifinals
The Class 2A eight-ranked Oak Hall (Gainesville) Eagles fell to the top-ranked Seacrest Country Day (Naples) Stingrays, 25-9, 25-15, 25-15, to end their season 21-9. It was the first time Oak Hall advanced to the state semifinals since 2014.
Class 1A State Semifinals
The Dixie County (Cross City) Bears, playing in their first ever state semifinals match, fell to eight-time defending Class 1A champion Sneads, 25-14, 25-16, 25-15, The Bears finished their season 16-10.