For the Kowboys, this was routine. Aside from a bumpy second set, OHS rolled to a four-set win over Tampa Newsome, 25-17, 16-25, 25-11, 25-23, in the District 7A-6 final for its fifth consecutive chaxcmxxxpionship.
For the Bulldogs, this is a pretty big deal. They fell behind after the third set and needed a comeback to win in five, 25-16, 25-27, 20-25, 25-14, 15-13, for their first district title since 2000, and the first in Coach Ettie Singleton’s career, which has spanned two decades and SCHS and Gateway.
Speaking of the Panthers, they ran into state power Merritt Island in the 5A-11 title match, falling in three sets. While Osceola and St. Cloud have clinched regional playoff spots and home games Wednesday, the Panthers (14-11) will wait the next day or two to see if their MaxPreps ranking is high enough to earn a wild-card playoff berth.
The FHSAA should announce the playoff pairings sometime Friday or early in the weekend.
Osceola (25-1) seemed to be rolling along after cruising to the first-set win, then gone none of the breaks or bounces in the second set.
“We had some really good rallies, the ball just didn’t fall our way,” Coach Carrie Palmi said.
From there she leaned on key seniors in the starting lineup who had never lost at this stage of the season, hitter Allison Palmi, middle blocker Malina Spencer and setter Janleen DeJesus.
“In the third game we knew we had the crowd with us, so we needed to get them a part of it, and the seniors really stepped up and just kept pushing until the end,” Allison Palmi said.
The offense runs through DeJesus, and she said the key to winning the last two sets was cranking up the tempo.
“We just tried to speed the game up so their blockers couldn’t get to where we wanted to go to,” she said.
For those seniors, the next loss is now the last time they will suit up for the Kowboys.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Coach Palmi said of the upcoming regional playoff run.
The only thing similar for St. Cloud (19-4) Thursday was the start — win the first set, lose the second, against Viera, a team it lost to in three sets back on Aug 29.
The Bulldogs led in the third, 19-13, but let that slip away as they watched the Hawks fight back and win it 25-20. The response made Coach Ettie Singleton proud.
“The girls could have thought back to that last match, and they could have packed it in, but they didn’t, they wouldn’t, and that was so great to see, for me and for them,” she said. “Maybe in years past we’d go into a match like that just hoping to win if we played perfect. Their mindset (Thursday) was, ‘We’re going in to execute and work to win.’ They did just that.”
With backs against the wall, St. Cloud rolled in the fourth set, and then took early 6-2 and 9-5 leads in the deciding fifth set to take the match and the first-place trophy — for a change.
“It was definitely one of our best-played matches this year,” Singleton said. “The fact we’re home Wednesday is a very good feeling, but now we have work to do. We’ll be playing somebody we haven’t seen this year.”