The St. Thomas Aquinas high school girls’ volleyball team inched closer to another state title.
Led by sophomore outside hitter Meredith Dixon with 17 kills and five blocks, the Raiders defeated Mater Academy 25-12, 25-20, 11-25, 24-14 in a Class 6A regional final at home Tuesday.
It was the second consecutive year the Raiders ousted Mater from the state playoffs.
Aquinas (23-7) will host the Winter Springs/St. Cloud winner in a state semifinal match on Saturday at 2. p.m. The Raiders are seeking to win back-to-back state titles and seventh overall in school history. St. Thomas has won six state titles, including four in the past five seasons.
“Their two outside hitters are very good,” said St. Thomas coach Lisa Zielinski. “We really focused on putting four hands on them. You could see their momentum go up and down. But we had to keep pushing and stay ahead and keep the focus on us.”
In the three sets Aquinas won, they did a solid job stopping Mater’s big hitter in 5-11 sophomore Angeles Alderete, who entered the match with 211 kills. Still she managed 15 kills, the majority coming in the third set win that snapped the Raiders 20-set winning streak.
“In the third set, we were able to control our serves better,” said Mater coach Elsa Lopez. “We were hitting exact numbers that helped disrupt their system.
We knew coming in if we made any mistakes, they would be hard to beat.”
That proved true as the Lions committed numerous errors, including three consecutive serves into the net in the fourth set giving Aquinas the momentum.
In the fourth and deciding set, Dixon’s kills and Mya Bowers blocks was the difference late in the match. Aquinas reeled off seven straight points to seal the match.
“I think it was very important for us to stop Mater at the net in the beginning,” said Dixon. “Our blocking was key in stopping their amazing hitters and helping our defense a lot.”
The Raiders were also led by Erin Engel with 24 assists and Alyssa Mcbean with 16 digs.
For the Lions (21-2), Amaya Roberson added 7 kills and Taylor Pagan 6 kills.