It took a little while for the Palmer Trinity Falcons to kick things into gear, but once they did, they cruised to a four-set 3-1 victory over host Miami Country Day on Wednesday night in a Region 4-3A quarterfinal match.
After they struggled and barely won the first set, the Falcons (20-7) watched a fired-up MCD squad (17-9) take the second set before settling down and winning the next two by lopsided scores to close out the match.
And after Westminster Christian’s straight-set win over Sagemont, the stage is cleared for the eighth consecutive regional semifinal meeting between the two programs, dating all the way back to 2007, next week at Westminster.
After Palmer won the first three times, Westminster has won the last four years and went on to win the state title a year ago.
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“We beat them during the regular season this year, and we hadn’t done that since I was in ninth grade and that will really help us going into next week,” said Palmer senior hitter Ellie Nosich, who led the way for her team with 12 kills, 23 digs, six blocks and four aces. “Keeping a positive attitude is always the key for us. Tonight we had our key center [Grace Hibshman] out, so it took us awhile to start playing well, but once we got things going, we were OK.’’
Other key contributors for Palmer were Kristen Fernandez (32 digs), Ashley Quero (10 kills, four blocks) and Juliette Hamilton (five aces, 84 assists).
Region 4-3A quarterfinal -- Westminster Christian d. Sagemont 25-15, 25-18, 25-19
With Westminster coach Julie Doan holding out top player in senior outside hitter Sammy Ceballos for most of the night as a precaution after noticing her limping in warmups, the rest of her Warriors responded to a straight-set victory.
Westminster Christian (18-9), which lost seven seniors from its state championship team last season, advances to face district foe Palmer Trinity in regional semifinals.
After some early struggles with the turnover, Doan said her team is pulling it together at the right time.
“It seems like we’re on the same page now,” Doan said. “Everyone’s just comfortable with each other, and we’re clicking.”
Nikkia Benitez led the Warriors with 12 kills and 16 points while adding 10 digs. Isabella Hernandez and Courtney Clausell each had 10 kills with Clausell also registering three blocks.
Westminster is 1-1 this season against Palmer — the win coming in districts.
Reagan d. South Broward 25-18, 22-19, 25-22
Diving digs demonstrated what the 7A regional quarterfinal was all about Wednesday in Reagan’s 3-0 win over South Broward.
The Bison (14-6) won 25-18 and 22-19 before coming back to win the third game 25-22. Isabella Oliver had six kills, four blocks and two assists while Andrea Bernal had seven kills and three assists. Grace Spasic had eight assists and 12 saves for the Bison.
“I think [sweeping] was very important,” Bison coach Melissa Garcia said. “It helps the girls realize that even when they are down, in the third, to come from behind to put them away. Having the momentum that we can put away a stronger team in three sets will help us moving forward.”
St. Thomas Aquinas d. American 25-4, 25-3, 25-7
St. Thomas Aquinas seemed to have finally hit its stride at the ideal time of the season. The Raiders came out against American in the first set and took an 11-0 advantage and rolled to a straight-set 25-4, 25-3, 25-7 victory in the 7A regional quarterfinal.
“I’m happy with how were played; we played well,” said coach Lisa Zielinski.
Emma Dixon had 15 kills and an ace, while Allison Marble had nine kills. Kara Mason was a dominating server with eight of the Raiders’ 18 aces. She also had five kills.
“We had some injuries, nothing minor, but we’ve been able to play well, and right now, I feel we are playing our best volleyball,” Zielinski said.
American’s Derry Costigan had 26 assists and Kelly Schafenacker 11. Their assists helped put the team’s hitters in ideal situations to dominate the net.
For the Patriots, who ended their season 16-2, Lenysse Dyer had three digs, three kills and an ace. Keimi Martínez added four assists and two digs.
“We’re looking forward to the next round,” Zielinski said. “We know things are going to get tougher with each game we play.”
The Raiders will face Reagan for a chance to advance to the regional final.