Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Canes Lose Epic Match with Aquinas | after Dropping First Two Sets, Manatee Falls in Five

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Canes Lose Epic Match with Aquinas | after Dropping First Two Sets, Manatee Falls in Five

Article excerpt

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL 8A STATE SEMIFINAL

FORT LAUDERDALE -- The St. Thomas Aquinas volleyball team may be invincible, but the Raiders proved to be human too.

Winners of 27 straight district titles, three consecutive regional crowns and two state championships, St. Thomas Aquinas was pushed to the limit by Manatee High, the little train that keeps rolling along.

After dropping the first two sets, the Hurricanes turned into a runaway freight train, winning the third and fourth sets and pushing the Raiders to a fifth and deciding set.

"I just wanted to get to game five," Manatee coach Tony Cothron said. "Anything can happen in game five. You never know. We were there."

The Hurricanes were right there, until St. Thomas Aquinas reeled off the final six points of the match to take a 3-2 victory over Manatee 25-19, 25-22, 14-25, 20-25, 15-8 in a Class 8A state semifinal Saturday in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Raiders' cozy gymnasium.

Tally the final scores on both sides and both sides finished with 99.

It was that close.

"They're a great team," 29-year St. Thomas Aquinas coach Lisa Zielinski said of Manatee. "They're actually pretty tough. They had to travel. That's a test to them, having to come all the way out here away from their gym with the crowd. They played really well under that circumstance."

Those circumstances also involved dropping the first two sets.

"I was worried about them not showing up in the third set," Cothron said. "We were going to take it one step at a time, and that's what they did."

The Hurricanes (16-9) adjusted their block and hitting to compensate for the Raiders' outside attack, led by 6-foot senior Brooke Bauer, a Pepperdine commit for beach volleyball.

"Their one outside that was really strong was hitting through our block," Manatee senior Grayson Hall said. "Our defense wasn't ready for that. We didn't know exactly where to go. After that, we adjusted our defense and our blocks to a different way and it worked out better, much better. And we just stayed with that."

It was one thing making adjustments and another thing in executing and believing they could work. …

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