Celtics will now face Sarasota Cardinal Mooney on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Class 5A title game at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers
Trinity Catholic junior outside hitter Annie Cate Fitzpatrick has a little piece of advice for all fellow athletes.
“Never underestimate your opponent.”
Fitzpatrick and the rest of her Celtics teammates came out with guns-a-blazing by downing visiting opponent Episcopal School of Jacksonville by a score of 25-8 in the opening set of Saturday afternoon’s FHSAA Class 5A state semifinal at Trinity Catholic High School.
“We knew this team (Episcopal) was here in the state semis with us for a reason,” Fitzpatrick said about her and her team’s discussions following the first set. “They were obviously better than that, and we needed to make sure we stayed as strong as we could.”
A.C. was right, the Eagles were better than that.
In fact, Episcopal’s Viki Wood and Emily Mayher showed that they could counter against Trinity’s hard hitters like Fitzpatrick and junior Kate Wonus as Wood and Mayher came up with key blocks in the second set in which the Eagles won 25-22.
But as the match intensified, so did the Celtics. And finally in the end, it was Trinity Catholic that won the final two sets, 25-23 and 25-18 — and went on to win 3-1, advancing the Celtics to the Class 5A state championship game.
This is TC's first trip back to the state finals since 2015 when the Celtics made it to the 4A title game and finished as state runners up after falling to Cardinal Gibbons in five sets.
The Celtics (23-5) will now play Sarasota Cardinal Mooney (21-2) on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Class 5A title game at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers.
“That 25-8 game one, that wasn’t real to us,” Trinity Catholic head coach Jeff Reavis said. “A team gets in a zone, plays as well as they can play for a set, but it was just one (set) and that was the issue. … basically it was almost too perfect.”
The Celtics trailed the Eagles 21-20 in the second set on a kill by Mackenzie Flakus, and were able to then cut it to 24-22 on slams by Fitzpatrick and Wonus. But Episcopal’s Tori Zlatanoff closed out the second set with a slam of her own to tie the match at 1-1.
TCHS zipped out to a 7-4 lead in the third set led by points from Hannah Hicks and Samandryn Jacobi. The Eagles then took a 12-11 lead on kills from Mayher and Hannah McCarthy and another key block from Wood.
Fitzpatrick, a Penn State commit, took the lead back for the Celtics in the third with a violent slam past Leah Williams and Olivia Leinenweber who could only look at each other as the ball zipped by and smacked up against one of the gym's office doors.
“A.C. is going to get hers, but we are better when more people are getting stats,” Reavis said.
Fitzpatrick came back with another high-velocity line-drive spike to make the score 23-20, and Wonus finished off the third set with a kill that Wood and Mayher went up for and got their hands on, but could not block.
The fourth set was much of the same as the third. TC took a manageable lead to start off the set and then Episcopal tied it at 7-7 due in large part to outstanding play from Leinenweber from her libero position.
Meanwhile Trinity Catholic libero and FAU commit Raine Lynch was diving all over the court and at one point came up with a diving, two-fisted dig that ended up right into Fitzpatrick’s mighty swing plain for a kill and assist that gave TC a 12-11 lead in the fourth.
“Raine was awesome for us, she had 29 digs in four games, she was all over the place, it was great,” Reavis said.
TC almost ran away with the remainder of the fourth set and ended it with five points down the stretch from from Fitzpatrick, one from Wonus, and one from Jacobi.
“I love this team,” Reavis said. “They stay together, they work together, and they have done a great job embracing this process that we have gone through and they understand that we are in the final four for a reason.”
Fitzpatrick finished with a game-high 36 kills to go along with 16 digs. Wonus had 12 kills, Hannah Hicks finished with five kills, Madison Carmon had six kills, and Jacobi tallied five kills. Annabelle Wiechens had 17 digs to go along with Lynch’s 29 digs, Haley Hicks finished with 29 assists and Casey Sosnowski had 22 assists for TCHS.
For the Eagles, Mayher finished with a team-high 11 kills, Leinenweber had 31 digs, McCarthy ended up with 30 assists, and Wood tallied a game-high five blocks.
Episcopal School of Jacksonville ends its season at 17-12.