NCT advances to Saturday’s regional final


The Cinderella road through the playoffs for Zephyrhills ended Tuesday night at Brooksville-Nature Coast, as the Bulldogs just could not handle the Sharks’ tandem of Courtney Crawford and soon-to-be Tulane signee Courtney Liddle.

NCT advances

Nature Coast’s Sierra Ruiz spikes the ball as Zephyrhills’ Jessica Geiger goes for a block during Tuesday’s 5A-II volleyball semifinals in Brooksville. Hernando Today

The Sharks dominated the first two sets en route to a 25-14, 25-15, 26-24 victory over the Bulldogs in a Class 5A, Region II semifinal.

“You got to give Zephyrhills credit, they never let up,” Nature Coast Head Coach Emily Gore said. “Down 0-2, they kept fighting and coming at us, so you have to give them credit for that.”

And early on, it seemed like Zephyrhills wasn’t going to be able to put up much of a fight at the net due to the Sharks’ size advantage, with Craword and Liddle both being 5-foot-11.

The Sharks jumped out to a big lead in the first set, as NCT held a steady advantage throughout.

The second set was much of the same, with Zephyrhills continuing to struggle with the Sharks’ height advantage. Crawford and Liddle, the two outside hitters combined for 29 kills in the match and were relentless all night notching kills.

In the third set, though, the Bulldogs (18-9) would show some life and battle back and take the lead several times, as middle hitter Kaitlyn Blount had most of her 11 kills in the final set. Blount nearly led Zephyrhills to a third-set victory over NCT (25-2), but the Sharks would prove to be too much in the end.

“It was good for us to have a tough third set,” Liddle said. “From here on out, we’re not going to have any easy sets, so it was good to go out and show we can pull it out in a tight set. We knew we had a pretty good opportunity of reaching the third round of the playoffs. It was pretty much destiny waiting to happen.”

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