Winter Haven Stays on Serve to Survive Against Mitchell in Class 6a Volleyball Region Quarterfinal
Wed. October 31, 2012 at 12:49 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Winter Haven's Katora Roberts celebrates a point during the Blue Devils' match against Mitchell on Tuesday night. (Photo by ERNST PETERS | THE LEDGER )
By SOLANGE REYNER
WINTER HAVEN | Katora Roberts, Winter Haven's big hitter, wasn't feeling right at the start of Tuesday's Class 6A regional quarterfinal volleyball match against Mitchell.
She was missing easy kill attempts, either hitting the ball into the net or out of bounds.
"I wasn't living up to my name," Roberts said. "I was putting way too much pressure on myself because I wanted this win bad."
But her teammates stepped up in her place, and Roberts came through down the stretch to help the Blue Devils survive another week in the playoffs.
Roberts had 23 kills and three blocks, Jessica Dills added 11 kills and 15 digs and Megan Piatnik tallied 11 kills and three aces as Winter Haven beat a gritty Mitchell squad, 22-25, 28-26, 27-25, 20-25, 15-8.
Winter Haven will play at Tarpon Springs on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in a regional semifinal match. Tarpon Springs beat Lake Gibson, 25-5, 25-7, 25-9 Tuesday night to advance.
Mitchell kept Winter Haven on its toes all night by using the Blue Devils' blockers to their advantage.
Their hitters purposely ricocheted the ball off Winter Haven's blocks and out of bounds, a skill called "tooling."
"We scouted them and knew they were going to do it," Winter Haven coach Derrick Bennett said.
"They tool very well."
The approach certainly gave Winter Haven's players fits, but their players kept fighting in a back-and-forth match that had tons of tied points and two games that looked like it would sway in Mitchell's favor.
But Winter Haven made the adjustments when it had to to flip the switch.
Down 26-25 in the second game, Winter Haven tied it when a Mitchell player was whistled for crossing the line.
Then Winter Haven sophomore Jessica Dills pushed a kill across to help the team take the lead.
Aspen Dobratz, who finished with eight kills and four blocks, barely edged in the following point to make it 28-26
Winter Haven (19-4) was down again in the third, 25-24, when Roberts came to the rescue.
The senior put a light touch on a spike attempt to catch Mitchell off guard, a ball that ended in a point, and then connected on two more kill attempts to make it 27-25.
Mitchell won the next game to tie it at two apiece but Winter Haven came out determined in the fifth to put the match away.
The Blue Devils started off the fifth 9-3 on four errors by Mitchell, an ace by Ali Mann, who had 30 assists, kills by Madison Combee, Katie Baumbach, Roberts and Dills.
Mitchell got within five, 13-8, behind kills from Lyndsey Lane, who finished with 19, Karly Dampier and Daniele Green, but that's as close as it would get.
Combee had another point off a kill attempt and Roberts finished the match off with a nice little tip over the right side.
"We did a good job of coming back and we played a great fourth game to get back into it," Mitchell coach Keith Paulk said.
"We fought through our frustration and tried to match their big killers but it seemed impossible to stop (Katora) tonight. We just didn't seem to line up well with her hitting hand."
Jessika Hester added 17 kills for Mitchell (18-7) and Shayna Filippelli had 48 assists.
[ Solange Reyner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7526. ]