LAND O’ LAKES – A volleyball match that figured to be a heavyweight battle between two stubborn opponents did not disappoint Tuesday night. Three of the four sets went to overtime before the Sunlake Seahawks held off the Mitchell Mustangs 3-1 (27-25, 23-25, 26-24, 28-26) to advance to the FHSAA 7A regional final round.
The Mustangs jumped out strong in the first set winning the first four points and opened up a 6-1 advantage but were quickly matched by the Seahawks at 7-7 and the battle ensued. Exchanging points and sending the game into overtime the Seahawks took a 26-25 lead by virtue on an ace from senior Kamea Nash and ended the first set on a kill from freshman Kylie Ciani to take the first game 27-25 for a one game lead.
Ciani led Sunlake with 17 kills for the night followed by Caroline Schoonover with 12 and Kamea Nash with 11.
The second set was again a close contest with neither team gaining more than a 4-point advantage throughout. Down 19-15 Sunlake got back-to-back aces from senior Rachel Passarello who had 5 on the night, to bring them within two but after tying the game at 23, the Mustangs pulled away to take the second set 25-23 and tie the match at 1 game each.
Mitchell started the third set with a 4-0 advantage but again the Seahawks responded to tie the game at 4. The Seahawks then opened up a 14-7 lead aided by a Ciani ace. A 4-point run by the Mustangs tightened the score to 14-11 and they would eventually bring the game to a tie at 24. Sunlake finally put two points together to end the game 26-24 and take a 2-1 advantage.
The Seahawks jumped out to a 22-15 advantage in the fourth set, but the Mustangs responded with a 4-point run that forced a Seahawk timeout. After the timeout Sunlake appeared to take control again with a vicious kill but were called for over the net to extend the Mitchell run to 5-points. Sunlake, who took the lead to 24-20 had six chances to put the match away but the Mustangs responded each time to tie the score at 26. The match finally ended with 2 consecutive Seahawks points to send them to the regional final round.
The Seahawks will remain in the confines of their home court for the regional final match that will be held next Tuesday night vs. the Cudas of New Smyrna Beach. New Smyrna (27-3) reached the finals by defeating Lake Gibson 3-1 (25-15, 14-25, 25-21, 25-11). Tuesday night.