St. Thomas in 8A fi­nal

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Adam Lichtenstein alicht­en­stein@ sun-sen­

When St. Thomas took the court for Satur­day’s state vol­ley­ball semi­fi­nal matchup against Venice, it was miss­ing its leader.

Head coach Lisa Zielin­ski was not in the gym. She was in Gainesville, where her son, Zachary, was hav­ing surgery.

“She’s such a big part of this team,” se­nior Sophia Davis said. “We do ev­ery­thing for her. Her not be­ing here to­day, we knew we had to step it up as a team and be to­gether as a team be­cause our coach isn’t here.”

The team ral­lied in her absence, beat­ing Venice 25-17, 25-21, 21-25, 25-21 to earn a spot in the Class 8A state ti­tle match. The Raiders got their re­venge af­ter the In­di­ans knocked them out of the post­sea­son in the state semi­fi­nals last year.

“It was re­ally tough,” said Heather Treb­biea, who filled in for Zielin­ski. “But I have to say, they were so pre­pared. She did such a great job pre­par­ing them for this mo­ment.”

The Raiders took the first set from the In­di­ans with an eight-point mar­gin, but no game would be as easy as that.

Venice stuck with St.

Thomas through a tight sec­ond game, then jumped out to a 19-12 lead in the third game. The Raiders fought back and got within two points, but the In­di­ans won that game to avoid the sweep. The fourth game was an­other close one, with St. Thomas and

Venice be­ing tied at 18 at one point. But clutch late kills by se­nior Paige Barash, who led the Raiders with 18 kills, helped se­cure the fi­nal 25-21 vic­tory.

“I just trusted my team­mates,” Barash said. “We’re a fam­ily, so I just trusted them. I wanted to do ev­ery­thing

for them.”

St. Thomas will face Tampa Plant in the state cham­pi­onship match Thurs­day at 7 p.m. at Sun­coast Credit Union Arena in Fort My­ers.

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