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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

County receives double dose of regional action


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Last year Hernando County sat out regionals for the first time since 1998.

That won't be the case this time around, with two local squads taking part in a pair of Class 5A, Region II quarterfinals Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

Hernando (17-5), fresh off its 5A-District 7 championship won on Thursday, hosts 5A-8 runner-up Anclote (21-7).

Meanwhile 5A-7 runner-up Weeki Wachee (16-10) makes a short trip to 5A-8 champ Fivay (22-6). The winners of these matches will meet next Tuesday for a semifinal.

To some degree, this is uncharted waters for both local programs.

The Lady Leopards have plenty of history in the state playoffs, just very little of it is recent. They reached the Sweet 16 in 2010, but there are no remaining players from that roster.

Before that, Hernando hadn't advanced beyond districts since 2004, which was also the last time it hosted a regional contest.

In just its fifth season, Anclote is making its second regional appearance. It was swept in a quarterfinal match at Nature Coast in 2011.

The Lady Sharks had three girls with over 200 kills prior to Thursday's district title tilt against Fivay: seniors Aaliyah Anderson (238) and Mia Lockhart (210), and junior Marissa Niedermeyer (211). Senior setter Cynthia Mathewson has tallied 579 assists.

Beyond examining the stats, though, Hernando head coach Robin Bailey admits she doesn't have much information on Anclote.

"We'll go into it like we do every game," Bailey said. "Anybody can be beat in any given game. Instead of reading stats and watching film and going crazy, we'll go in to win.

"We'll go into Tuesday night and play our game, and hope our game is better than the other team's game.

"We have far exceeded our goals being district champions, hosting a regional. Anything after that is a bonus for our girls."

The Lady Hornets, in only their third varsity season, are not only regional rookies but the first team to reach this point in any sport in the school's four-year history.

But they do have firsthand knowledge of their upcoming opponent. Weeki Wachee hosted Fivay on Sept. 18, getting swept, 25-17, 25-12, 25-13.

Ten days later, in the Fivay Volleyball Classic, the host Lady Falcons still came out on top, however in much tighter fashion, 25-20, 18-25, 15-13.

Weeki Wachee head coach Kelly Werkmeister had an optimistic outlook based on that experience, and feels her team has overcome the nerves that surfaced in the 5A-7 final.

She also acknowledged that Fivay draws strength from its continuity.

"Just the consistency," Werkmeister said. "They are a good team. I think the thing they do, a lot of their girls stayed together throughout the season doing club, and they've always had that throughout as they built their program."

The Lady Falcons are led in kills by senior twin sisters Ashleigh (234) and Briannah Nemetz (223). Setting them up will be junior Jordyn Mattos (678 assists).

On the Lady Hornets' side, freshman right side hitter Sarah Asbury will return after missing the 5A-7 Tournament due to personal reasons.

Junior left side hitter Alexis McDowell remains questionable after injuring her leg in last Tuesday's district semifinal against Wesley Chapel.

Weeki Wachee could use all hands on deck as it attempts to extend its breakthrough campaign against a Fivay squad that went to the regional finals a year ago.

"I'm proud of all the girls and everything they've accomplished this year," Werkmeister said. "There's nothing to be sad about. If they lose, they lose. We've had a great season, but I'm hoping it won't be over yet."

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At a Glance

WHAT - Class 5A, Region II quarterfinals

WHO - Anclote Lady Sharks (21-7, 5A-8 runners-up) at Hernando Lady Leopards (17-5, 5A-7 champions); Weeki Wachee Lady Hornets (16-10) at Fivay Lady Falcons (22-6).

WHEN - Tuesday, 7 p.m.

AT STAKE - Winners will meet in next Tuesday's 5A-II semifinals.

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