A marquee volleyball matchup on paper between the top two teams in District 3A-6 turned into a runaway for Seacrest Country Day as they swept Evangelical Christian 25-22, 25-14, 25-23 to take the district championship.
Evangelical Christian had won district titles in six consecutive seasons, but ran up against a Stingrays team that outperformed the Sentinels.
“It was a tremendous performance from our girls. The other two matches were so close and we couldn’t pull them out. We came out and made sure we finished the game this time around,” Stingrays coach Jan Class said.
In the first set, the Sentinels struggled to communicate and the Stingrays took full advantage by running off eight of the next nine points for a 18-9 lead and taking the set on a kill by sophomore Jordan Corina.
Seacrest continued the momentum into the second set by racing out to an 8-2 lead. The Sentinels closed to 10-5, but seven consecutive points from the Stingrays put the set out of reach. The set was won on a Sentinels return error.
Evangelical Christian came out with more urgency in the third set, and at one point held a 16-12 lead. The Stingrays would take eight of the next nine points to lead 20-18. The two sides traded points, but Seacrest clinched the match with an emphatic kill from junior Gem Grimshaw.
Grimshaw tallied eight kills, eight digs and two blocks for the match. Jarene Harberts had 11 kills and 12 digs, and Piper Matsumoto had nine kills, 14 digs and 15 assists for the Stingrays.
“Honestly, tonight was a bit of a shocker,” Sentinels coach Theresa Kabel said. “We didn’t seem to be in the game all night. Maybe it was a bit of pressure knowing how hard it is to beat a team as talented as Seacrest is for a third time. We can’t let this spill over to the next round. We can either lay down or use this as a spark for the postseason.”
Lily Tessier dished out 34 assists, and Sam Bebber and Caroline Forster combined for 23 kills for the Sentinels.
In the regular season, the Sentinels (22-5) had dealt with district opponents with the exception of the Stingrays (20-6) with ease, not dropping a single set all season. Seacrest had taken ECS the distance in their two previous meetings, but the Sentinels came out of top on both occasions.
Evangelical Christian will have to start their journey on the road to try and make another run to the Final Four as they did last year and could see the Stingrays for a fourth time this season.
“I told our girls, stay humble about this victory because we know we could see them again next week. But we will enjoy this tonight,” Class said.
Seacrest Country Day will host 3A-5 runner-up Out-of-Door Academy in regional quarterfinal play on Wednesday, while Evangelical Christian will travel to 3A-5 champion Sarasota Christian.