Thursday's Class A, District 6 final between host Bayshore Christian and Cambridge had it all. When it was finally over, Bayshore Christian senior Stevi Cherry, the athlete who might have played the biggest role in the outcome, took a deep breath and pumped her fist. Her squad's thrilling 25-8, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22 win had drained the energy of almost everybody in the gym, not just the players.
"It's kind of a relief," Cherry said.
Cherry's 18 kills, along with the strong play of teammates Adria Mullaney and Christine Williamson, helped spark the victory. Cambridge had stars, too, namely Sarah Kocher and Kelley Taylor, who spearheaded a spirited comeback.
Once down and just about out, Cambridge (21-5) stayed in it by winning an exciting third game that had more plot twists than a John Grisham novel. Cambridge led 6-0, then just 7-6, then 23-10 before Bayshore Christian (19-5) tested Cambridge's nerves with a stretch in which it won 10 straight points.
"Volleyball is a sport of momentum," Cambridge coach Cindy Stenberg said. "Once we had it we couldn't lose it. We carried it over into the fourth game. It should have been ours."
For a while, it looked like a fifth game was inevitable.
But trailing 19-16 in the fourth, Bayshore Christian turned up its intensity and finished strong. A kill by Williamson gave the Faith Warriors the lead at 22-21. On the second match point, Cambridge served into the net to end it.
"My leaders, Stevi and Adria, told the girls they had to play with heart and desire," Bayshore Christian coach Melanie Humenansky said.
6A-6: Durant overmatched
DURANT - Sarasota Riverview continued its dominance over Durant with a 25-15, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18 title victory. The Rams (25-2) will host a team from the Orlando area next week and the Cougars (11-14) will travel to their regional quarterfinal.
Riverview defeated Durant in both previous matches in the regular season.
"Durant is a very aggressive team with a super defense," Rams coach Keith Drake said. "Tonight we had good service and good passing. Our girls didn't give them anything all night. Everybody contributed to the win for us. It is very hard to win in this district."
Senior setter Heather Kendrick guided the Rams, making 32 assists for the night. Riverview started the first game with a four-point run and didn't look back. In the second, Durant battled a little tougher and at one point had a three-point lead.
But that didn't last.
The Rams were strong on the net and the Cougars back-line players were unable to stop the kills of sophomore hitter Emily Werner. She led all players in kills with 15. Jillian Burns was second for the Rams with 12.
Durant senior outside hitter Becky Hunter wasn't far behind. She was second for the night and tops for the Cougars with 14 kills.
In the third, Durant started with a 4-0 lead and seemed finally to have it together. With the Cougars out front 12-9, junior middle blocker Samantha Sarff served seven straight points for a 19-9 lead and seemingly a game win.
However, the Rams kept coming back and put 19 points on the board before Durant was able to close out its only game victory.
Sarff served five aces for the night.
- TERRY JONES, Times correspondent
2A-10: Bucs win comfortably
LAKELAND - Heavy favorite Berkeley Prep got a brief scare from Lakeland Christian but resumed its dominance, winning a third consecutive district championship 25-12, 25-23, 25-9.
The fans at McKeel Athletic Centersaw Lakeland Christian (13-8) surprise the Buccaneers with an 18-11 second-set lead.
Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino called timeout and let his team know it was time to get serious.
"I can't repeat to you what I said," Dagostino said about the timeout. "The seniors decided to take over."
Berkeley responded with an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to one, 20-19.
After tying the contest at 23, the Bucs served in two straight points to win the set.
"This is just one step in the whole process," Dagostino said.
The Bucs have won 16 state championships and rank second in titles won by any high school team.
Berkeley was led by Courtney Cohen and Ann Millerwith 11 kills each and star forward Janet Okogbaa had nine kills.
Sophomore setter Kate Parker, who had 33 assists in the semifinals in straight sets against host McKeel, had another 30 in the final.
Lakeland Christian was led by Marissa Paulin with seven kills and four digs and Bailey Russell with 11 assists and four service points.
"I'm proud of them," said Vikings coach Susan Ellis of her team's performance.
- THE LEDGER
4A-11: Hawks defeat top seed Newsome
TAMPA - Armwood game from behind in the fourth game to defeat top-seeded Newsome 25-23, 30-25, 25-20, 25-20 for the Hawks second straight Class 4A, District 11 title.
"I asked the girls before tonight's match if they remembered the feeling they had last year when we won district for the first time in 15 years," Armwood coach Mike Wyatt said. "And they wanted to get that feeling again."
Ahead 2-1 in games, the Hawks fell behind 8-1 in the fourth but pulled within 16-12. The turning point of the match proved to be a crippling 11-0 Armwood run from there.
"I'm beginning to think we should just start each game down 6-1," Wyatt said. "It seems like we get down early each game, but the girls didn't panic and kept their composure."
Kelly Faulkner provided the spark during that stretch, serving three aces in a six-point span.
"(Faulkner) was huge for us tonight," Wyatt said. "She just got in a groove with her serve and we got rolling from there. She provided outstanding senior leadership tonight.
Heather Dorling led the Hawks with 11 kills and Brittany Dilts added nine.