By: J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola
Occasionally a loss can also provide some needed momentum.
Such was the case during Saturday afternoon’s FHSAA Class 7A, Region 2 semifinal, when the Osceola volleyball team used a third game loss to Olympia as incentive to win big in the fourth as the Kowboys advanced to the regional championship game with a 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 victory over the Titans.
The win propelled the Kowboys (23-6) into a Wednesday evening showdown at Jupiter (24-3), where they will attempt to win their second consecutive regional championship. The Warriors, the region’s top seed, earned their way to the title game with a five-set win over Ft. Pierce Central.
“They have a big-time player in 6-5 outside hitter Sarah Brodner and they are solid on both offense and defense,” Osceola coach Carrie Palmi said. “We know a little bit about them from our quarterfinal playoff game with them last year (a five-set win by Osceola). They had a great season but I honestly believe than none of the eight teams left in 7A are unbeatable. We’ve played a tough schedule this year and many of those were on the road. So we will go into the match with a lot of confidence.”
The Kowboys will go into the regional final on a roll. Osceola has won five in a row and 12 of their last 13. Their only loss in that time was a four-set road loss to Winter Park, the #1 ranked team in 7A and #2 ranked team in the state.
In Saturday’s win, Osceola would jump out to an 8-1 lead in game one against Olympia and cruise to an easy win before earning a hard fought 2-point win in the second set for a huge 2-0 lead. But it was a third set loss that Palmi said gave her team momentum for the rest of the match.
“You always worry about getting complacent after going up 2-0 and frankly it looked like we were going through the motions,” Palmi said about the third set where Osceola trailed by five or six points for most of the set. “The danger is you lose that third set and all of the sudden the momentum goes to the other side. The fact that they had the serve and a 23-18 lead and we fought all the way back to 23-23 was huge. Even though we ended up losing the set, I think coming back and almost winning the set really kept them from stealing the momentum from us.”
Osceola trailed 4-3 in the fourth set before taking control of the game with an 8-3 run to take an 11-5 lead. Palmi and Southall would combine for 12 kills in the set as Osceola never would let the Titans to get closer than three points in the set. It was only fitting that the match ended with Palmi serving out the final two points and Southall ending the match with a huge spike.
In addition to big games the Palmi and Southall, the Kowboys also got solid performances from senior setter Alex Liggeri (51 assists) and libero Andrea Bravo (23 digs), but it was also the play of 6’-4” freshman Brooklyn Sippio (10 kills, 5 blocks) that caught the attention of Coach Palmi.
“She (Sippio) was pretty raw at the beginning of the season but she just improved week-by-week and match-by-match and is starting play with a lot of confidence. There’s no question our opponents try to stop our outside game with Cate and Jordin. But when do that, they let tend to not pay attention to the center of the court. Brooklyn really took advantage of her opportunities tonight.”
Olympia finishes the season at 23-7. “I was very proud of our effort tonight against a very good team,” Olympia coach Seven Tello said. “We started four sophomores and a freshman and I think our youth sort of caught up to us tonight. But give them credit– they are very good team but I know we’ll be back next year.”
The Titans were led by freshmen Mia Diouf, who had 13 kills and three blocks.