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King’s Academy edged in state beach volleyball quarterfinals

Both King’s Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas both came up short in their FHSAA state beach volleyball appearances at FSU Beach Volleyball Courts in Tallahassee.

King’s Academy (19-1) ranked No. 6 nationally by MaxPreps, downed St. John Paul Lutheran 4-1 in the first round before falling 3-2 to Vero Beach (15-2) in the state quarterfinals.

The deciding match came at the number one position where Lions’ senior Kate Taylor and freshman Britain Taylor (no relation) won their opening set 21-13 before falling 21-18 and 15-9 to lose the opening position 2-1.

“It is always a tough ending to lose like that,” said King’s Academy coach Rachael Perla, whose team was ranked second in the state behind two-time defending state champion New Smyrna Beach. “They honestly played great and there are a lot of good teams there. The girls gave it everything they had. We really had a great season, and I am very proud of them.

“We had a lot of success this season,” Perla added. “It was an incredible ending for my team. They were excited to be there. Last year, there were some not-so-good memories at state, so for the girls who were there last year they were happy to be with a team that was ready to play.”

The Lions also dropped the second and fifth positions as the nation’s 7th-ranked team Vero Beach handed King’s Academy its first loss of the season. King’s Academy won the third and fourth positions by identical 2-0 scores.

St. Thomas Aquinas (12-5) fell 3-2 to Westminster Christian in the first round of the state tournament. It was the second loss of the season for the nation’s 22nd-ranked team to Westminster Christian, who also won 3-2 on March 30.

“We played pretty well,” said St. Thomas Aquinas coach David Palm. “We had a game plan going into the match and we executed it into the first part of the match. It went all the way to the last match where we fell a little bit short. It was very unfortunate the way that ended up.”

Westminster Christian (18-2) won the first two lines and the fourth line, while the Raiders captured the third and fifth positions. Westminster Christian ranked No. 13 in the country, then defeated Vero Beach 3-0 but fell 3-0 in the championship to New Smyrna Beach.

New Smyrna Beach swept Westminster Christian 3-0 in the final to give the Barracudas their 41st straight win dating back to last year.

Palm said the team played a more local schedule last year but added powerhouses like King’s Academy, Boca Raton, Park Vista, and Westminster Christian to this year’s schedule.

Palm lauded his pairing at number one of Halley Tang and Zoe Taylor provided solid play all season long. He returns the majority of his team with the exception of senior Amanda Knapilk.

Beach volleyball is different from the indoor version. Instead of the obvious (sand, and outdoors), each team competes in five pairs. The first team to win three of the five pairs matches is the winner. Each match uses rally scoring in a best-of-three format, with the first two sets played to 21 points and the third set to 15 points. As in indoor volleyball, winning a set requires a two-point margin.

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