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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Hernando, Weeki Wachee on collision course


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Hernando and Weeki Wachee have already played three times this season. Barring a significant upset a fourth meeting figures to take place on Thursday.

The Lady Hornets (14-9) will host the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament, beginning with three quarterfinal matches on Monday.

They enter as the second seed, behind only the Lady Leopards (15-5), who as the district's top-ranked team garnered a bye into Tuesday's semifinals.

When the final comes around Thursday at 7 p.m., the two county rivals are expected to battle for the 5A-7 crown.

"It'll probably be us and Weeki Wachee in the final, and if the girls work together like they did at our place, we look to win," Hernando head coach Robin Bailey said.

"I do believe anybody can get beat on any given day. It's always who wants it more. But if I was to guess, Weeki Wachee is our challenger."

After going a combined 7-36 over their first two varsity season, the Lady Hornets have come of age and were the early district leaders.

They defeated Hernando at home on Sept. 10, 21-25, 25-15, 27-25, 25-18, and captured their first eight 5A-7 tilts until a bizarre occurrence on Sept. 26.

On that night, Weeki Wachee traveled to Dade City and fell to Pasco, 25-27, 25-16, 20-25, 20-25.

What makes that such an eyebrow-raiser was the fact the Lady Pirates didn't win another district match, finishing last in the standings at 1-11. They had previously been swept by the Lady Hornets on Sept. 3, 25-15, 25-14, 25-20.

As the seventh seed, Pasco faces Weeki Wachee Monday at 7 p.m.

"It's one of those things that just happens where the girls had an off night and Pasco fought," Weeki Wachee head coach Kelly Werkmeister said. "I don't think that'll happen this time, because we know we shouldn't have lost that game."

The Lady Hornets went on to defeat Hernando again in the Fivay Volleyball Classic on Sept. 28, 25-18, 25-21, but three days later the Lady Leopards gained a measure of redemption in their home gym, 26-24, 23-25, 21-25, 22-25.

Weeki Wachee finished up 10-2 within district action.

"Our girls are wanting to play Hernando," Werkmeister said. "That night, I don't even know what happened to them. It was a battle and I don't know what happened.

"It's home-court advantage for us being in our gym (for the tournament). I think home-court advantage helped them."

For Weeki Wachee to see the Lady Leopards again, it'll have to not only get past Pasco but the winner of Monday's match pitting third-seeded Wesley Chapel and sixth-seeded Zephyrhills, in a Tuesday semifinal at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile Hernando will await the survivor between fourth-seeded Central (6-16) and fifth-seeded Nature Coast (5-17) for Tuesday's other semi at 5 p.m.

The Lady Bears and Lady Sharks will tangle Monday at 4 p.m. They split their regular-season series.

The Lady Leopards beat both teams twice, and ended up 11-1 in 5A-7 play. Outside of Weeki Wachee and two other losses in the Fivay tournament, Hernando's only other defeat came in its season opener at Crystal River, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 21-25.

On Monday the Lady Leopards hosted Crystal River and cruised to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-9 win. Bailey said she intentionally scheduled those Lady Pirates to bookend the regular season as a way to measure her club's growth.

"We're excited," Bailey said. "The girls have worked hard and I feel we've progressed really well. We're excited to meet whoever we meet (Tuesday) and go on to the championship.

"I think we're communicating better, working together, trusting each other's position. We have a more stable lineup now."

Though it'll be Weeki Wachee's turf, Bailey anticipates that plenty of Hernando supporters will make the short trip.

The Lady Leopards are seeking their first district title since 2004. The Lady Hornets are hoping to become the school's first team in any sport to qualify for regionals.

"We finished strong toward the end (of the regular season)," Werkmeister said. "We're starting to jell at the right time. As long as they keep doing as well as they are I think we should go pretty far."

Springstead and Hernando Christian Academy are also involved in district tournaments this week, both traveling to Pinellas County.

The Lady Eagles (13-9) are seeded third in 6A-10 at Seminole-Osceola, and they'll face the second-seeded host Lady Warriors in a Tuesday semifinal at 6:30 p.m.

Osceola dominated the season series, winning 25-17, 25-12, 25-19 on Sept. 9 and 25-22, 25-20, 25-8 on Oct. 8.

"We seem to be on a good little run," Springstead head coach Noemi Rivera said. "The last two times we played Osceola we haven't played our best, so hopefully we come ready to play."

Overall the Lady Eagles finished 4-4 in district action, also dropping two matches to top-seeded Mitchell.

"Mitchell is a really good team," Rivera said. "Not to take anything away from Osceola, they're a really good team. I think we are just as good and can make an upset.

"We just need to stay vocal, keep trusting each other, and our passing has got to be on point. If our passing is on point, things usually go our way."

The Lady Lions (10-13), the fourth seed in 2A-8, are headed to St. Petersburg-Keswick Christian to play fifth-seeded Citrus Park Christian on Monday at 5 p.m.

HCA swept Citrus Park Christian twice, most recently this past Monday, 25-9, 25-7, 25-10.

The winner will take on the top seed and host Lady Crusaders on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Lady Lions have lost three times to Keswick Christian, including at the Keswick Invitational last month.

When the teams last played on Oct. 8, HCA actually won the first game, 28-26, before going down, 25-5, 25-21, 25-13. The Lady Lions were swept the first two meetings.

"We know that it's possible, we just have to be able to execute and be on top of our game," HCA head coach Stacy Hethorn said. "I don't know if it's just an intimidation factor (with Keswick Christian). I know we can keep up with them."

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At a Glance

What - Class 5A, District 7 Volleyball Tournament

Who - No. 1 seed Hernando, No. 2 Weeki Wachee, No. 3 Wesley Chapel, No. 4 Central, No. 5 Nature Coast, No. 6 Zephyrhills and No. 7 Pasco

Where - Weeki Wachee High

When - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

At state - District championship and two berths in Tuesday's 5A-Region II quarterfinals

What - Class 6A, District 10 Volleyball Tournament

Who - No. 1 seed Mitchell, No. 2 Seminole-Osceola, No. 3 Springstead, No. 4/5 St. Petersburg-Dixie Hollins and Largo

Where - Osceola High, 9751 98th St. N, Seminole

When - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

At state - District championship and two berths in Wednesday's 6A-Region III quarterfinals

What - Class 2A, District 8 Volleyball Tournament

Who - No. 1 seed St. Petersburg-Keswick Christian, No. 2 St. Petersburg-Canterbury, No. 3 Tampa-Bayshore Christian, No. 4 Hernando Christian Academy, No. 5 Citrus Park Christian and No. 6 Clearwater-Lakeside Christian

Where - Keswick Christian School, 10101 54th Ave. N, St Petersburg

When - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

At state - District championship and two berths in Wednesday's 2A-Region II quarterfinals

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