Santa Fe season, title runs come to an end

Santa Fe's bid for three straight Class 4A state championships came to an end in Orlando against Bishop Moore on Wednesday.
Santa Fe's bid for three straight Class 4A state championships came to an end in Orlando against Bishop Moore in the regional final round on Wednesday.
File photo by C.J. Gish

It’s been an impressive run for the Santa Fe (Alachua) volleyball team.

The Raiders entered the 2023 season as back-to-back FHSAA Class 4A state champions.

However, on Wednesday night in Orlando, their run came to an end with a 25-11, 28-26, 27-25 season ending loss at top seed Bishop Moore in a Class 4A-Region 2 Final.

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Santa Fe started slow against the Hornets (22-8), but they finished strong by pushing the final two sets into extras.

“Set one they did what we thought they were going to do, they hit us in the mouth with their serves,” said Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall. “Their serve, kind of what we saw on video, was extremely low and fast, and we worked on it really hard in practice, but the girls seemed really nervous. We were doing very uncharacteristic things, shanking balls, we probably got aced seven times in set one and then we missed four or five serves so we gave them about 11 unearned points.”

But the good news is that Marshall, who is in his sixth season, knew that’s not who his team was and he knew they could play much better.

And they did.

“I don’t take anything away from Bishop Moore, the fact that they never gave up, just kind of shows what type of team they are because we basically controlled sets two and three,” Marshall said.

In fact, Santa Fe led by “four or five in set two and basically ahead the entire time until the very end” and the Raiders were up 24-20 in set three.

The Raiders tied the third set at 25-25 but lost by two in the final set, ending their season at 21-9.

“They have two incredible athletes, one on the right side and one on the outside that hit 90% of their sets, kept them in the game the whole time,” Marshall said. “But I feel like we gave one away, if I’m being honest, because after set one we kind of controlled the tempo of the match.”

Senior outside hitter Jordan Czaplewski led the Raiders with 13 kills, followed by senior Joseylynn Sanjurjo with 10 kills. Senior libero Olivia Beavers had 24 digs.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Raiders, who have played in the state playoffs every year since 2011.

“A lot of people didn’t think the Raiders would get near this far this year after losing the athletes that we lost so I give a lot of credit to this team for not folding to that thought process,” Marshall said. “We really wanted to shock the world a little bit and win state with this team, but there can only be one winner and it’s not us this year.”

This year marked the sixth straight season that Santa Fe has advanced to the regional final round.

The Raiders began their postseason run with a sweep of North Marion (Citra) on Oct. 17 in the Class 4A-District 5 semifinals, followed by a sweep of Eastside the next night in the district championship game.

They then defeated Titusville, 3-0, in the regional quarterfinals before sweeping McKeel Academy (Lakeland) last Friday in the regional semifinal round. 

The loss on Wednesday in Orlando also snapped their two-year streak as state champions.

Santa Fe has won 80 games in three years, but Marshall feels like he should have won three state titles.

“I always go back to the one we lost,” Marshall said. “We lost to Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) in five three years ago (2020 region final), which is going to haunt me for the rest of my life because we were so much better. We killed them in our gym and then we ended up losing to them in five in their gym, so if you ask any of those players that won two in a row, they’re going to remind you that we should have won three. So that to me is a blemish on our record.”

Last year Santa Fe finished 30-2 and repeated as state champions.

Two years ago, the Raiders (29-3) won their first volleyball state title in program history after finishing as state runners-up in 2018 and 2019. They also finished second in the state in Class 2A in 1976.

Their state championship run the past two seasons included having the top player in high school at their disposal in Jalyn Stout, who was named Miss Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball, along with Eric Marshall being selected the Florida coach of the year in 2021 and voted second place in 2022. 

The Raiders’ volleyball program has played in four of the last six state championship games under Marshall, falling to Merritt Island in the 6A title game in 2018 and to Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) in the 4A championship game in 2019.

“I had the athletes to do that,” Marshall said. “I feel like we should have won three, but I’m going to preach this until I stop coaching. I’m the only public school left with a bunch of private schools, which I’m completely against. I hate the fact that public and private have to play together. I don’t think it’s a fair playing field. I’m not whining about that, we just dig in and play, but once again it’s happened several years in a row where I’m the only public school left.”

Santa Fe’s playoff history since 2011 (12 straight appearances)

2022 – Class 4A State Champs 

2021- Class 4A State Champs

2020 – Class 4A Region Finalists

2019 – Class 4A State Runners-up

2018 – Class 6A State Runners-up 

2017 – Class 6A Regional Semifinalists

2016 – Class 6A Regional Quarterfinalists

2015 – Class 5A Regional Semifinalists

2014 – Class 4A Regional Quarterfinalists

2013 – Class 4A Regional Quarterfinalists

2012 – Class 4A Regional Quarterfinalists

2011 – Class 4A Regional Semifinalists

Editor’s note — This story was updated with quotes from Santa Fe coach Eric Marshall.

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