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Boca Raton stages spirited late rally before Bobcats get edged by Doral Academy in 7A girls volleyball regional final

BOCA RATON — The Boca Raton girls volleyball team rallied to force a decisive fifth set, but fell short by two points as visiting Doral Academy escaped with a 25-15, 25-19, 18-25, 22-25, 15-13 victory in a Class 7A regional final on Wednesday night.

Doral Academy (23-7) advances to the state semifinal for the second time in school history and will play at Polk State College in Winter Haven on Nov. 10.

Boca Raton had rallied to win in five sets against Doral Academy to reach the state final four last season.

“Both teams are competitive and felt the pressure and obviously the battle was at the end there,” Boca Raton coach Dre Sloan said. “At the end of the day, we are so proud to be here again. Last year, we managed to beat them 15-13 and we went to states so it’s only fitting that they beat us this time with the same score. They’re an amazing team. We lapsed in a couple of areas and as a result, it cost us the game. Nonetheless, I could not be more proud of my girls.”

Boca Raton (21-4) had reached the regional final for the third consecutive season.  The Bobcats delivered a three-set victory against Palmetto during the regional quarterfinal and a five-set win against Ferguson in the semi.

The Bobcats were led by senior outside hitter and FAU commit Natalie Depaula, senior libero and UNC Asheville commit Catherine Hubiak, junior outside hitter Mija Benzuite, junior outside hitter Bella Troncale and junior middle blocker Sophia Oliveira throughout the match.

Sloan said Depaula and Hubiak have both made an impact to lift the program to success.

“I have been blessed to be a part of their journey for a number of years now,” Sloan said. “Obviously, they’re both sensational players. They’re going to be a huge part of our loss for next year. They need to move on at some time and we need to rebuild at some time and that’s what we do as a program. We got a lot of talent even for next year so we will rebuild and be back.”

The Firebirds jumped out to a 14-11 advantage in the first set and then quickly pulled away with a 6-0 spurt as they held on for a 10-point win.

The Bobcats led 6-3 in the second set before Doral rallied with 9-1 run to seize control. The Bobcats trailed 21-15 and rallied with three straight points to force the Firebirds to call a timeout. The Bobcats cut the deficit to 22-19 before the Firebirds closed the set with three consecutive points.

Boca Raton led 8-5 in the third set before the Firebirds stormed back with a 6-0 run as the Bobcats called a timeout. The Bobcats responded back and the score was tied 16-16. Depaula recorded a kill to spark a 5-0 run as the Bobcats led 21-16 and held on to win the set by seven points.

The Bobcats trailed 10-7 and answered back with four straight points in the fourth set. The Bobcats trailed 15-13 before Benzuite recorded three consecutive kills to give her team a one-point lead. Benzuite registered another kill to tie the score at 17-17. The Firebirds responded with three consecutive points. The Bobcats trailed 21-19 as Depaula started a 4-0 run with a kill and they hold to win by three points.

The Bobcats trailed 4-1 in the fifth set. The Bobcats had a 5-0 run, which included a go-ahead kill by Depaula. The Firebirds rallied with a 4-0 run to jump ahead 8-6. Depaula had a service ace to make it 8-8, and the game was tied 11-11 before the Firebirds scored three straight. The Bobcats cut the deficit to 14-13 before the Firebirds ended it.

Junior setter Melissa Gonzalez led the Firebirds in the victory.

“What a great rivalry we have with Boca,” Doral Academy coach Julio Arnaiz said. “This is the second year we went to five. It feels amazing and we found a way. I am proud of this group.”


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