Santa Fe swept defending Class 4A volleyball champion Bishop Kenny in the Region 1 Final in Alachua Saturday.
It’s been 371 days since Santa Fe’s 2020 season ended prematurely in the regional semifinals at the hands of Bishop Kenny on Oct. 31 and the Raiders had been counting the days. The Raiders beat the visiting Jacksonville team 26-24, 25-22, 25-10.
“Yes, we’ve thought about it every day,” Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall said regarding the loss to Bishop Kenny, a team the Raiders had defeated twice during the 2020 regular season but lost in five sets in the regional semifinal round.
The first set saw the score tied nine times. The Raiders (27-3) took leads of 18-15 and 21-17, but Bishop Kenny (20-10) kept battling back. It didn’t help that Santa Fe had eight service errors, but the Raiders were able to overcome the mistakes, breaking a late 24-all tie when Bishop Kenny hit a serve into the net and Faith Marquis nailed a set-wining service ace for the win.
The second set was just as tight early on, but after an 8-all tie, Santa Fe started pulling away and never relinquished the lead. Behind four Jalyn Stout kills and back-to-back Rylie Tam kills, the Raiders went on a 12-3 run to take a 20-11 lead. Bishop Kenny made a late run to pull within 24-22 before Stout hit the set-winning kill.
“You’ve got to give them all the credit, you’ve got to give her credit for coaching like that,” Marshall said of Bishop Kenny and their coach, Suzanne Winkler. “When you come in and play a No. 4 team in the country, whatever we are, if you can convince your team that you can beat a team like that, then that’s good coaching and then her kids never backed down.”
In the third set, Santa Fe resembled a shark sensing blood in the water and jumped to a quick 15-3 lead with behind solid hitting across the net from Tam, Stout and Joselynn Sanjurjo. Bishop Kenny mounted one last run to pull within 17-10, but the Raiders closed the door on any comeback with three Marquis service aces including the match-winner.
“The difference in set three was our serving,” Marshall said. “In set one and two we served awful. I think we missed like 17 serves. So the fact that we won missing 17 serves, we were very fortunate. It was a little too nerve racking.”
Marshall said the serving mistakes could be attributed to being too careful.
“When you try to be careful and not hit it, that ball sails on you,” he said. “So we got super aggressive in game three, which is what we talked about. If we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose playing aggressive.”
For Tam, the senior outside hitter who led Santa Fe with 18 kills and 12 digs, she feels the Raiders are ready for the stretch run as they head to the state final four.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” Tam said. “That was definitely our most emotional game and mental game, so just focusing on that, coming in knowing we were the better team. That’s how we’ve played all year with a chip on our shoulder and confidence and it’s worked out for us.”
Stout had 17 kills and Sanjurjo added five kills. Anisa Dorlouis had 19 assists and Stout added 16 assists. Miya Thomas had 11 digs.
Santa Fe will play Academy of the Holy Names (Tamps) Jaguars (21-8). The Jaguars defeated Lemon Bay, 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-16, in the 4A Region 2 final. It marks the third time in four seasons the Raiders have advanced to the state semifinals round, finishing state runner ups in Class 6A (2018) and Class 4A (2019)
In the 2A Region 1 Final, Oak Hall (22-8) advanced to the 2A State Semifinals by defeating Harvest Community (Jacksonville), 23-25, 25-15, 25-15, 25-16. The Eagles will play the Seacrest Country Day Stingrays (24-4) next Sunday.
In the 1A Regional Finals, Dixie County (16-9) swept district rival Bell (14-13), 27-25, 26-24, 25-20.
In the other 1A Regional Finals, Newberry (18-11), after defeating Union County Tuesday, was swept by Taylor, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23.
Dixie County will face the Sneads Pirates (19-10) next Sunday in the 1A State Semifinals.