VENICE – Riverdale High came into The Teepee with a plan for Tuesday night’s Region 8A-3 volleyball quarterfinals.
But like so many of the best-intended plans before it, the Raiders’ hopes were quickly dashed by the four-time state champion Indians.
Senior outside hitter Tanner Gauthier’s 17 kills and 13 digs, coupled with significant contributions from five of six highly touted sophomores, helped Venice (24-3) overcome a slow start and overpower the visiting Raiders 25-22, 25-11, 25-10.
Riverdale (22-6) fought back after falling behind 14-8 in the opening set, pulling even at 22-all after 5-foot-10 senior Jenna Zaleski’s kill and a double-hit by the Indians. But after a timeout, sophomore Carley Faulkner’s putaway gave Venice the lead again and two Raider hitting errors ended the set.
“I want my team to play with confidence, warm up with confidence and practice with confidence,” said Venice coach Brian Wheatley, now 570-148 in 23 seasons. “We have that on this team. Playoffs are a matter of getting rid of the clutter out of your head, having a good mentality. We did a good job of that tonight.
“Now we’re on to the next round.”
The Indians, ranked No. 1 in Class 8A by MaxPreps, will host Manatee – a five-set winner at Gulf Coast – in the regional semifinals, scheduled for Friday. Venice beat the Hurricanes 25-23, 24-26, 17-25, 25-18, 15-10 last week, behind Gauthier’s 28 kills, for its 15th consecutive district crown.
Osceola d. North Fort Myers 25-21, 18-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-12: The Red Knights dropped a heart-breaker in a 7A-9 regional quarterfinal match against Osceola, failing to capitalize on a 2-1 set advantage. Traveling two hours to the north, North Fort Myers held a 15-12 lead in the fourth set, but could not close the Warriors out.