By: J. Daniel Pearsonn for Positively Osceola
For a second consecutive year and third time in the last four years (excluding the 2021 Covid Year), Osceola High reigns supreme in Orange Belt Conference volleyball.
After straight set wins over Liberty (quarterfinals) and Gateway (semifinals), Osceola came through with another dominating performance with a 25-12, 25-21, 25-14 win over Tohopekaliga in the OBC Finals hosted by St. Cloud High School.
“Other than a few communication errors in the second set, I thought we played pretty well tonight,” Osceola coach Carrie Palmi said. “We had a good crowd that got into the match and I thought we fed off of their energy. You could tell by our team’s reaction after the match that this championship still means a lot to them.”
Osceola got 16 kills and five aces from Cate Palmi in the win; Jordin Southall added 10 kills and three blocks in the straight set win. The Lady Kowboys were never really challenged in the match. In Game 1, Alex Liggeri opened by serving four straight points and Osceola would then use a 5-2 run to build a 9-2 lead. Later in the set, Tohopekaliga would have two return errors and lose a point on a formation violation as Osceola extended the lead to 20-8 before cruising to a 16-point win in the first set.
Behind the solid play of Sophia Bou and Donna Aguilera, Tohopekaliga played much better in the second set. The Tigers battled Osceola evenly, with the teams going back-and-forth with neither team getting an advantage of more than two points early.
Tied 9-9, Osceola would pull ahead for good by using a pair of Palmi aces to go on a 5-0 run and build a 14-9 lead. Still, the Tigers would fight back. Behind nine combined kills by Bou and Aguilera, Tohopekaliga came back from a 17-11 deficit to pull within two points at 19-17. But a Palmi kill stopped that run and Osceola score six of the last 10 points of the set for a 25-21 win.
The final set was all Osceola from the start as Liggeri served four straight points to open the set, and the Lady Kowboys would eventually open a 9-2 advantage. From there, Toho would never get closer than four points and Palmi would serve out five straight points late in the set as Osceola built a 24-11 lead. Osceola closed the match out on a thunderous cross court spike by Southall.
The win, Osceola sixth straight, pushed the #7 ranked Lady Kowboys to 17-5 on the season. During the stretch, the Lady Kowboys have won 18 straight sets. Osceola will close out the regular season next week with home games against Edgewater (Monday) and Southland Christian (Thursday) with a Tuesday away game sandwiched in against Winter Park.
That contest against the Lady Wildcats (17-2) will be a huge challenge for Osceola, as Winter Park is ranked #1 in FHSAA Class 7A and also ranked second overall in the state. “We’re playing really well right now after hitting a mid-season lull,” Carrie Palmi said. “The road win over a really good Bishop Moore team last week was huge and this will be another great challenge against a team we could very well see in the state tournament later on.”
Tohopekaliga, who came into the match ranked 17th in the state in 7A, fell to 18-4 with the loss. They will close out the regular season next week with a home match with Gateway and a road game against Lake Nona.
Osceola, Lake Nona and Tohopekaliga will most likely be the top three seeds in the 7A, District 6 Tournament that begins Oct. 16 and will include Cypress Creek, Harmony and Celebration.