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Gainesville-area volleyball teams are all the rage

It’s time that Gatorade and Gainesville’s many notable natives step aside. Because right now — Gainesville’s claim to fame lies in the gymnasiums of local high schools — more specifically, at the volleyball net.

For three Gainesville-area volleyball teams, their schedule has extended well into the post-season as their state playoff journey continues.

Newberry Panthers (17-12) @ Branford (22-5) — Class 1A State Semifinal

The two teams extend just beyond the boundaries of Gainesville, but nonetheless, deserve ample recognition.

The Buccaneers out of Branford are coming off of a 3-1 win over Bell to advance to the semifinals.

Led by junior and senior duo, Cera McElreath and Lachelle Sikes who boast 243 kills and 244 kills, respectively, the Bucs are an offensive nightmare.

However, lining up on the other side of the net, the Newberry Panthers are just as capable as any team in combating Branford’s offensive success. Coming off of a 3-0 sweep over Williston, the Panthers are riding the wave of a four-game win streak — three of which saw the match minimum of three sets. Sophomore sensation, Abby Pace, has nabbed 484 digs on the season. The Panthers will have to receive the ball well against the spike-happy Buccaneers if they want to advance to the state finals.

The Panthers will pay the Buccaneers a visit on November 9th with a championship berth on the table.

Bishop Kenny (19-10) @ Santa Fe (19-9) — Class 4A, Region 1 Final

The Raiders out of Santa Fe have been a firestorm recently. Winning all six of their last six games, only one has seen a fourth set as the Raiders have made it a point to submit their opponents quickly.

Leading the way for the Raiders is a pair of ferocious underclassmen. Sophomore Rylie Tam leads Santa Fe in kills with 380 on the season. Tam also leads the team in solo blocks with 74 on the year.

Meanwhile, Tam’s freshman counterpart, Jalyn Stout, is also turning heads in her first year. Stout has netted 271 kills while also tallying 277 digs and 372 assists.

The Bishop Kenny Crusaders, on the other hand, have likely forgotten how to lose a volleyball match. With a win over Yulee on Tuesday night, the Crusaders gathered their 13th straight win.

For the visiting Crusaders, they will have to find success from sophomore Tina Nika who has dug out 412 kills this season while also contributing 49 aces.

Though it was back in August that these two teams last saw each other, it’s important to note that Santa Fe and Bishop Kenny have already lined up against each other in a game that saw the maximum of five sets. At the end of the day, it was the Raiders who came away with a hard fought win.

The rematch between these two squads gets underway on Tuesday at 7 p.m. from the Santa Fe gym.

Buchholz (22-5) @ Leon (26-3) — Class 6A, Region 1 Final

The Buchholz Bobcats boast the best record in the Gainesville area. In fact, the Bobcats haven’t dropped a match to any of the Gainesville area schools.

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However, the Bobcats face arguably their biggest test yet in the Leon Lions.

The Lions are coming off of a big win over Ocala’s Forest to advance to the regional final. Forest being a team that had beaten Buchholz twice in the regular season.

Lions’ senior, Shania Cromartie leads the way for Leon with 357 kills on the year while both A’nylah Cobb (296) and Cailin Demps (256) are also approaching that 300 number. Cromartie has also tallied an impressing 274 digs on the season — a number that leads that stat line.

However, despite Leon posting intimidating numbers, the Bobcats will be the last team to shy away from the challenge. After all, they have a rather powerful offense as well.

Sophomore Brianna Anderson has posted 332 kills, while senior Kennedy Wade leads the Bobcats’ offense with 336 kills.

Anderson also leads Buchholz with 249 digs — a stat line Anderson will likely need to hone in on in order to help her team rally on defense against the Lions.

The Lions and the Bobcats will battle for a spot in the state semifinals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. from Leon High School in Tallahassee.

About Ainslie Lee

Ainslie is a journalism major at the University of Florida where she specializes in Sports Media. Her main passion is college football as it was a huge part of her childhood. Ainslie serves as a current correspondent for the Ocala Star-Banner, a newspaper for the Ocala, Florida area. She currently covers Marion County high school sports.

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