St. John powers past Legacy Charter in regional quarterfinals

Saints sweep Eagles to advance to Friday's regional semifinals

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Posted October 24, 2023 | By Mark Pinson/Special to the Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

St. John Lutheran made short work of Legacy Charter in Tuesday night’s Class 2A-Region 2 quarterfinals. The Saints, who feature a balanced and lethal offense, had three players finish with double-digit kills in the 25-16, 25-8, 25-9, sweep of the Eagles.

Legacy Charter, (Ocoee) finished the season with a record of 13-8, while the win, which was its fifth in a row, improved St. John Lutheran to an impressive 18-5 overall. The Saints will play in the regional semifinals on Friday night.

“We got off to a hot start early and tried to carry that through the match,” said St. John coach Brad Ewers. “We had a couple of lulls but picked it back up pretty quickly and played well. We’re really trying to make sure we have different options on offense with three or four different hitters. We did a good job on defense of blocking which helped us get back in system pretty quickly so we can use all of those hitters.”

St. John Lutheran, the No. 1 seed, started out clicking on offense and jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set as senior middle hitter Giselle Baluyot, junior outside hitter Sophia Ochoa and junior outside hitter Rylee Palmateer took turns blasting powerful spikes past the Legacy Charter defenders.

Legacy Charter, the No. 8 seed, called a time out and rallied to pull within 12-8 as junior outside hitter Evelyn Tewson and sophomore outside hitter Ellie Webster scored points with perfectly placed shots.

St. John went on a 13-8 run sparked by three service aces by Ochoa, three kills by Baluyot and a cross-court spike by Palmateer. The Saints closed out the first set with a laser spike by Ochoa and an Eagles error.

Legacy Charter forced a number of long rallies during the second set, but St. John was able to win most of those and stormed out to a 16-5 lead as Isabelle Baluyot had a service ace and Ochoa, who had a match-high 11 kills, added a pair of spikes and contributed four service aces of her own.

St. John went on a 9-3 run as Palmateer, who also had 11 kills, had her way at the net against the smaller Legacy Charter players. The Saints finished the set on a service error by the Eagles and a perfectly placed spike by Arisa Ford.

The final set was tied at 6 before St. John pulled away behind superlative sets by junior Ashley Downs and more spikes by Giselle Baluyot, who finished with 11 kills.

The Saints finished with a flourish, as Downs scored at the net and Arisa Ford found the range with a pair of kill shots. A Legacy Charter shot found the net and sophomore Brooke Hernan closed out the set and the match with a spike.

With the win, St. John will advance to the regional semifinals on Friday night. The Saints will host the winner of the quarterfinal match between the Brevard HEAT and Merritt Island Christian.

“We haven’t played either one of those teams,” coach Ewers said. “I like the way we’re playing and we’re in a good position to host another match if we win on Friday night.”

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