LAND O’ LAKES – With their assistant coach Elyse Garcia at the helm Thursday night, The Sunlake Seahawks captured the FHSAA 7A, District 8 title 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-6, 27-25) over the Mustangs of Mitchell High School.
Garcia was in the coach’s seat due to a one-game suspension of head Coach Brian Gonzales that arose from a verbal disagreement to a call from the head official after the semifinal contest against Springstead Tuesday night.
Thursday’s final match in the Swamp at Land O’ Lakes, began with the two teams exchanging points until the Seahawks were able to pull away 13-11, eventually capturing the opening set 25-19.
The second game was much like the first with the two teams remaining close throughout. This time however, after being tied at 23, Mitchell put away two-in-a-row to tie the match at 1 game each.
The Third set was dominated by Sunlake. Kill after Kill and block after block saw the Seahawks soar to a 25-6 win to lead the match 2-1 after three sets. That domination ended however in that third set and the best game of the match was yet to come in the fourth set.
Even after a dominant win for Sunlake in the third, there was no quit in the Mustangs. Again, with the two teams exchanging points to a score of 23-23, Mitchell had two opportunities to put the game away but couldn’t seal the deal. Sunlake prevailed 27-25 and hoisted the district championship trophy that was presented by the Gators head coach and host Ike Klauka.
The outstanding freshman Kylie Ciani along with junior Caroline Schoonover were instrumental in the Seahawks victory wit 15 kills each on the night. Schoonover was selected as the coaches’ “star of the game” by interim skipper Garcia. Both Ciani and Schoonover were instrumental in the dominating third set victory.
Both teams will advance to the FHSAA 7A Regional tournament. District champs Sunlake will face Hillsborough at home Wedneday night, while the Mustangs travel to Brandon to take on the Eagles. Should both win in the first round, they will face each other for the fourth time this season at Sunlake in the Regional Semi-final on October 30th.