By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Last December, Osceola met Hagerty in the FHSAA Class 7A state volleyball semifinals – where they dropped a heart-breaking five-set match. On Monday night, the two-teams met again and unfortunately for the Kowboys, the result was the same as Hagerty came away with another five-set win in a battle of two top-10 teams.
Hagerty, ranked sixth in Class 7A, went to 11-4 with the win; the Kowboys – who came in ranked fifth in 7A, fell to 11-5.
“Without question the second set was the killer for us,” Osceola coach Carrie Palmi said of her team’s 17-25, 28-26, 25-15, 23-25, 15-11 setback. “We won the first set and looked to have the second in hand and we let it slip away. There’s no question we had all the momentum on our side and may have been looking at a sweep, but when we dropped the second set that momentum went to the other side in a hurry.”
Osceola started the match off well, never trailing. The Kowboys built leads of 10-5 and 20-14 in the game before cruising to the eight-point win. Cate Palmi was dominant in the set with five kills and two aces. The Kowboys appeared headed to a 2-0 advantage by jumping out to 14-10 lead and holding at least a two-point lead for most of the game, eventually taking a 23-20 lead.
But needing just two points, Osceola was not able to close out the set – despite serving game points at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25. But Hagerty would not fold and the game would turn on a kill by Sophia Wattles, a hitting error by Osceola’s Jordin Southall and a game-winning spike by Abby Mas.
The comeback appeared to take the wind out of Osceola’s sails in the third set as the Kowboys committed numerous ball handling and service errors in falling behind early 14-7 and eventually losing the set 25-15.
An 8-3 run by the Kowboys broke open the fourth set as Osceola grabbed a 22-17 lead. Hagerty would cut the lead to 24-23 before sophomore Mikayla Mathews came up with a huge block at the net for a point to give Osceola the game and force the match to a fifth and deciding set.
Hagerty controlled the “Race to 15” Game 5, but Osceola fought back behind the play of Southall, eventually tying the set at 11-11 on a service ace by Palmi. Coming out of a timeout, Hagerty made the big plays when needed. Mikalya Miessler came up with a block and a big spike to put Hagerty up 13-11 before Wattles gave the Huskies match point with a thunderous spike down the middle. Mayte Comacho’s ensuing serve fell just inside the left sideline for an ace and the 15-11 win.
“You don’t like to ever look at a loss as good, but we took one of the top teams in the state to five sets on the road,” Palmi said. “We’re still a very young team and we can definitely learn from this match. Chances are we will see them again in the post-season.”
Osceola’s top performers were all first or second year players. Sophomores Cate Palmi (17 kills, 3 aces), Southall (22 kills, 3 blocks) and Sophie Spivey (9 kills and three blocks) led the way; while freshman Brooklyn Sippio had five block and two kills.
Mas was the standout for the Huskies with 22 kills, 3 blocks and an ace.
The match was the start of a busy week for the Kowboys. They host Apopka on Tuesday, before traveling to Harmony (11-6) on Wednesday and then to Bishop Moore on Thursday. Bishop Moore will be another stern test for Osceola, as the Hornets (12-2) are ranked #2 in Class 3A. In addition to Osceola and Harmony, Tohopekaliga (10-2) have reached double digit wins halfway through the season.