By PATRICK CASEY
The South Walton Seahawks earned their third consecutive entry into the Class A state semifinals in girls volleyball as the Walton County squad posted a four-set victory over Blountstown on Saturday afternoon by a score of 25-13, 23-25, 25-10 and 25-22 to earn their third victory over the Tigers in five matches during the 2016 season.
South Walton, which had beaten the Tigers nine days earlier in Blountstown to claim the District 3 tournament championship, turned in another outstanding performance as it took everything the Tigers had just to claim the second set in a squeaker, 25-23.
The Seahawks opened with outstanding serves from sophomore Madi Daum and Sami Accola as the host squad built a 16-8 lead with help from senior Anne Margaret Harrison at the net and outside hitting from junior Madi Hiers. Daum and junior libero Taylor Prince combined to close out the set for the Seahawks with a 25-13 decision.
The second set was much tighter as the Tigers sensed a need to even the match with a victory, else fall in an 0-2 hole that they were not likely to recover from on the road. The set was tied at 9-all early and worked its way to 21-all before the visiting team edged ahead with a service ace from sophomore Madison Taylor for a 23-22 lead. The Tigers then scored the final two points to snatch the second set to even the match and increase the frenzy by both sets of the teams’ fans in attendance.
The Seahawks quickly quelled the insurgence with a 25-10 decision in the third set, jumping ahead 15-5 before junior Emma Pilcher served the host squad to a 22-8 lead that left the outcome just a matter of playing out the next five points.
The fourth set, much like the second, saw the score tied at 7-all, then, later, at 19-all. Blountstown and South Walton became knotted at 21-all moments later and the Seahawks won three of the next four points before Daum ended the match with a nice jump-serve that the Tigers could not rally back from as the Seahawks took the set 25-22.
Hiers had 14 kills and four digs while Daum had 15 kills, 12 digs and six aces. Prince had a team-high 17 digs and two aces and Accola had 11 digs and three aces.
South Walton got past Chipley in the first round of the playoffs on October 26 as they swept the Tigers 25-12, 25-20 and 25-16 in the Seahawks’ gymnasium in a match that took just over an hour from start to finish.
Team Notes: South Walton is 13-13 overall and faces a Sneads squad(23-5) that is trying to win their fourth consecutive Class A volleyball state championship. The Pirates defeated the Seahawks in 2014 (25-16, 25-19, 25-19) in Lakeland in the state semifinal round and in 2015 in Sneads (25-19, 25-10, 25-18). Sneads advanced to the semifinals with a 25-16, 25-13 and 25-15 home win over District 1 champion Baker.