Prep volleyball | Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy advance to Class 3A-District 10 final

jdill@bradenton.comOctober 23, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The passing wasn't crisp, so the Out-of-Door Academy volleyball team made adjustments.

The result allowed the Thunder to reel off three straight wins en route to a four-game victory in Tuesday's Class 3A-District 10 semifinal at the Petrik Thunderdome.

ODA (13-5) bested Saint Stephen's 17-25, 25-8, 25-20, 25-21 to advance to Thursday's final against No. 1-seeded Cardinal Mooney, which swept Bradenton Christian in Tuesday's other semifinal.

"Our passing was really out of sorts that first set," Thunder coach Craig Wolfe said. "And that was a source of concern. ... Our passers did a better job, and they started moving better. ... We're just not a very big team, so we have to be a really good ball-control team."

The increased consistency in the passing game helped the middle of ODA's attack get involved because Wolfe noticed the Falcons (11-14) keying on the Thunder's strength -- their outside hitting.

"That was kind of a nice change for us, and it shows that at the end of the night, you have to go with what they are giving you," Wolfe said.

Natalie Buffett (18 kills), Cameron Graham (28 digs, four aces) and Taylor Albano (10 kills, block) led ODA.

Albano generated the winning kill to secure the match for the Thunder as Saint Stephen's had rallied from a six-point deficit and cut it to three when Albano ended the match.

"They were piecing it together," Falcons head coach Shameka Walker said. "But then when we're piecing them together, then they would allow another five, six points."

Jenna Turner had 21 digs and seven aces for the Falcons. Bryce Liebel had 25 assists and 11 digs.

The Falcons took the opening game, and appeared to have momentum.

However, ODA, which won the two regular season meetings, quelled that notion with a strong second game before avoiding late rallies by the Falcons in the third and fourth games to close the match out.

"I thought we came out on fire," Walker said. "It showed in the results. They kind of shifted their focus a little bit; it showed. Although ODA picked up their play as they should've, it's a lack of focus, maybe."

Thursday's final is scheduled for 7 p.m. and features the host Thunder battling Cardinal Mooney.

The Cougars breezed past Bradenton Christian 25-14, 25-16, 25-14 and improved to 12-9.

Mooney was led by Kelly Firek (10 kills, three blocks), Madison McNally (12 kills), Maria Soscia (10 digs), Lexi Barbour (30 assists) and Shannon Lynch (five aces).

"I thought that was the best match that we've played so far," Cougars head coach Kristen Batt said. "We want to be playing at our best at the end of the season, and I really felt like that was our best. The last couple matches, I've started to see a really good chemistry on the court. ... Our defense was lights out, and our hitters did a great job."

The Panthers finished 9-14 and lose four seniors. Alex Watson (five kills), Abbie James (five kills, 10 digs) and Haley Waldo (15 assists) paced BCS.

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