The Santa Fe (Alachua) Raiders are four wins away from accomplishing the goal they set at the start of the volleyball season after cruising past visiting Pensacola Tuesday.
The Raiders (25-3) increased their win streak to 12 matches by defeating the Pensacola Tigers, 25-7, 25-11, 25-3, in the FHSAA State Class 4A Region 1 Quarterfinals. Santa Fe will host Yulee in Alachua next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the regional semifinals.
““We want the same goal, we want to win the state championship, we’re not scared to say that, but we can’t look at that,” Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall said. “That’s got to be the end of the rainbow.”
Serving was the focal point and an area that Marshall said the Raiders practiced more than usual the past few days following last week’s 4A District 4 Tournament that saw Santa Fe crush Palatka last Tuesday and North Marion in the title game on Thursday for the championship.
“We served extremely tough, a lot of pace on the serves,” Marshall said. We’ve been working on it a lot in practice because I know, down the road, that’s going to be super important.”
The Raiders proved that practice made perfect, starting with the first point of the match coming off a Faith Marquis service ace. Marquis, who tied for the team lead with six aces in the match, added another as Santa Fe built a 5-0 lead. The Tigers (13-12) got within 11-3, but that was as close as they would get in the first game.
In the second game, Santa Fe made some uncharacteristic mental mistakes with two rotation errors and a net violation that allowed Pensacola to keep pace and trail only 6-4. The score remained tight for a while with the Raiders ahead 13-6 before pulling away by outscoring Pensacola 12-5, capped by a game-winning Joselynn Sanjurjo kill.
“That was the game that I brought the bench in,” Marshall said. “In game three I went back to the starting lineup because I wasn’t happy with what they did off the bench. I didn’t think they were focused and ready to go, they allowed [Pensacola] to get into the game at the beginning, so for me the answer to that was to put back in the starters.”
The third game was over in short fashion with Santa Fe racing to an 11-0 lead. And after going up 18-3, Sarah Falck served six aces out of the final seven points, including the match-winner.
Rylie Tam led the Raiders with 11 kills, Jalyn Stout had nine and Sanjurjo added five. Stout also led the team with 14 assists and Anisa Dorlouis had 10. Miya Thomas had seven digs and Oliva Beavers had five.
Santa Fe lost in the Class 4A regional finals last season to eventual state champion Bishop Kenny after advancing to the Class 6A state championship in 2018 and Class 4A state championship in 2019, finishing runner-up both years.
“Right now it’s got to be one game at a time, and I’m not a one game a time coach,” Marshall said, “But it bit us last year because we weren’t that and we did not prepare well last year simply because we beat [Bishop Kenny] three times [during the regular season], so we looked past them. So right now we’re not looking past anybody. As far as I’m concerned, anyone that comes in this gym is favored over us and that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”