St. Thomas Aquinas holds off Gibbons rally
September 26, 2012St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Each year, it's seemingly the one match that brings out the best in them both.
Tuesday was no different when St. Thomas Aquinas hosted rival Cardinal Gibbons.
Both teams showed why they've traditionally been two of Broward County's best volleyball programs with booming kills, powerful blocks and perfectly-placed serves.
In the end, it was St. Thomas had enough firepower to outlast a scrappy, young Gibbons squad and earn a 25-19, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20 win.
"I thought they played really hard and I thought they stayed really aggressive," St. Thomas coach Lisa Zielinski said. "We had to fight for every point. There was no time we sat back and said, 'They're going away,' and you expect that from [Gibbons]."
After St. Thomas (7-1) took the first game, the Chiefs showed their ability to rally, building a 16-8 lead in the second game on the strength of one of Sarah Martin's two aces. Martin also had 34 assists, six service points, and four digs.
The Gibbons lead eventually grew to 21-14 after a pair of St. Thomas errors. But the Raiders fought back in the third game, jumping to a 20-13 lead after big back-to-back swings from Kimeko Bennett and Bridgette Villano.
Bennett finished with 12 kills and three blocks, while Villano added 16 digs, seven kills and five aces.
Both performances proved critical as St. Thomas was without reigning Sun Sentinel Class 8A-7A-6A Player of the Year Allison Belanger who was sidelined with the flu.
"In practice, we all play a lot of positions. So when we found out Allison wasn't going to be here, we all got mentally ready to play whatever positions coach needed us to play," Villano said. "This is one of our really big games so we're really excited we had the opportunity to beat a good team like this."
In the fourth game, again, St. Thomas jumped to a big lead.
But this time, the Chiefs (6-6) managed to pull within 21-18 after a kill from Shirley Bazua. The Raiders powerful hitters, though, closed out the match.
Brooke Lyons finished with a match-high 15 kills and six blocks for St. Thomas, while Nikki Lyons added seven kills. Ana Pedraza had 17 digs and Mackenzie Zielinski had 40 assists.
For Gibbons, Ali Jacobs had 13 kills and 11 digs, while Savannah Stones added 12 digs.
"It's a rebuilding year for us, and I'm very proud of them," said Chiefs coach Kathyrn Reeber. "This is the best they've played all year."