Cardinal Gibbons was pushed to the brink this past weekend against Pine Crest.
The push-back kept its season alive.
If they keep playing like they did Tuesday night, it might carry the Chiefs all the way to a state championship.
Gibbons, the state’s most decorated girls’ volleyball program with a record 19 championships, moved a step closer to making it 20 with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 18-25, 25-16) victory over visiting Ransom Everglades at its home gym in the Region 4-4A final.
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“We knew Ransom would fight hard, but we also knew we wouldn’t let them take this away from us,” Gibbons senior middle hitter Daniella Molinari said. “That match against Pine Crest, we fought so hard to come back. We fought until the end and we didn’t let our season end.”
The Chiefs (23-7) secured their first trip to the state semifinals since 2011 and will travel to Tampa to face Berkeley Prep at 2 p.m. Saturday in a battle of the two schools with the most state titles in state history.
The Buccaneers, who beat Oxbridge Academy in five sets Tuesday, are tied with Tampa Prep for second on the all-time list with 15 state titles each.
Gibbons coach Kathryn Reeber said the way her team is playing she isn’t worried about any opponent’s reputation causing intimidation.
“It’s definitely tough when you travel to play a team like that,” Reeber said. “But our team is on such a high right now that they believe they can beat anyone.”
Molinari finished with 15 kills, five blocks, three digs and three assists.
Senior setter Sarah Martin finished with 16 assists and set the tone with nine kills, 10 digs and four blocks. Bailey Pearlman had eight kills, three digs and three blocks and Kassie Akouri had 18 assists and four kills.
Only three days since rallying from a 2-0 deficit against Pine Crest in the regional semifinal round, Gibbons took control early against Ransom and hung on for a tough first set victory.
Molinari and Martin provided the momentum with crisp passing and hitting and also on the defensive end as the Chiefs disrupted the Raiders’ passing and returned or blocked numerous attacks.
Ransom (16-10), which lost in the regional finals for the second consecutive season, used crisp serving to set up its attack in a win over Westminster Christian in the previous round.
The Raiders limited their mistakes in the third game to cut Gibbons’ lead to 2-1. But Gibbons overwhelmed Ransom in the fourth and sped off to a 7-0 surge that helped it take a 19-9 lead and eventually end the match.
“Everything finally came together for us in that Pine Crest match,” Reeber said. “We have some great senior leadership on this team and this is their last chance.”
▪ Region 4-3A final — Palmer Trinity d. Miami Country Day (25-22, 25-23, 25-10): The Falcons sweet the host Spartans in straight sets to advance to class 3A state semifinal. Palmer Trinity (18-4) will face Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers) in the state semifinal Saturday at 2 p.m.
"We are really excited to be going to state. We have grown a lot as a team and can still improve," said Ashley Quero who led the Falcons with 12 kills.
Trinity won the first set on a hitting error. The second set was won on a block by Grace Hibshman.
The match was won on a kill by Grace Seide. The Falcons dominated the final set and led 20-5 on 10 consecutive points scored during serve by Dawson Stiff. Juliette Hamilton had a game-high 61 assists.
Miami Country Day (17-12) was led by Brooke Pumo who had 14 kills. Sasha Jenkins-St. Prix had 16 assists.
▪ Region 3-8A final — Jupiter d. Cypress Bay (25-22, 25-14, 25-23): A sadly similar feeling sank to the stomachs of the Cypress Bay volleyball team in its three-set loss to Jupiter.
The Lightning (20-8) has now lost to the Warriors (23-8) in the regional final for three consecutive seasons. The Warriors won the game after holding off a late Lightning rally.
“It’s tough losing to the same team over and over again,” junior Antonia Banos said. “We thought the third time was the charm, but I guess not.”
Brooke Wierda had 16 digs and Colleen Siebold had eight blocks and five kills in the loss. Jordan Kron had eight kills for the Lightning.
“They are an offensively sound team,” Lightning coach Jen Meyer said. “They run a fast offense and have some big hitters.”
Jupiter faces Ferguson on Saturday in the 8A state semifinal.
▪ Region 3-3A final — Evangelical Christian d. Westminster Academy (25-18, 20-25, 16-25, 25-20, 15-9): Host Westminster Academy fellto Evangelical Christian in a five set thriller.
The Lions led 2-1 and jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the fourth game, but the Sentinels battled back to send the match to a fifth set. Evangelical Christian (25-5) cruised in the final set thanks to seven assists by Lily Tessier and four kills by Caroline Forster. Tessier finished with a match-high 30 assists while Forster led the Sentinels with 13 kills.
Westminster (21-7) bounced back after dropping the first set with dominating performances in the second and third games. Team captain Jenna Boland paved the way for the Lions with 18 assists, the majority of them going to Jamie Boros, who ended the night with a match-high 18 kills.
“I just told our players that we had a really great season overall. We took our school to the regional championship game, which we haven’t done in five years,” Westminster coach Lanae James said. “We have so much to be proud of.”
Evangelical Christian will face Palmer Trinity in the state semifinals on Saturday.