BAKER — The Baker volleyball team moved a step closer to a return trip to the state tournament in Kissimmee on Tuesday night with a four-set win over a tenacious South Walton team in the Region 1-1A semifinals. The Gators won by scores of 25=23, 25-21, 23-25, 25-19.
The Gators (23-2) will travel to Chipley for a 2 p.m. match Saturday in 1-1A region finals to determine who will get a trip to the state final four.
Unable to match the size of the Seahawks (12-11), Baker played smart trying to keep the ball away from the power of South Walton’s big hitters Olivia Sanders and Katie Trejo.
Baker coach James Kerrell credited his team for executing the game plan to perfection.
“ South Walton is a good team,” he said. “They are a very tough and solid team. They’ve got to big girls in the middle that we had to contend with and we tried to adjust.
“We probably played the smartest game that we have played all year. We didn’t try to over power them. We just tried to outsmart them and just play good, solid ball tonight.”
Solid ball was the key for the Gators as was a balanced attack.
Katie Wickery had nine kills to lead the Baker attack. Jordan Linzy added eight kills and Halley Wagner had six kills.
The teams had met three times earlier in the season with the Gators winning all three meetings, but the familiarity the Seahawks had with Baker showed from the outset of the match.
South Walton jumped to a quick 5-0 lead in the first set before the Gators began clawing their way back into the set.
A Jordan Linzy kill pulled Baker to within 12-11 and sparked the rally that led Baker to the first set win.
Baker was team jumping to the quick lead in the second set as the Gators got off to a 6-2 start, but the Seahawks managed to tie things up at 14-14 before Baker went on a 7-1 run to take control of the set.
Leading 16-7, the third set looked to be all Baker, but the Seahawks came roaring back behind the serve of Olivia Kolovish to pull to with 16-13.
Trejo had three kills down the stretch to take the lead and send the match into a fourth set.
With the fourth set tied 14-14, the Gators responded like champions and closed things out with an 11-5 run to punch their ticket back to the region finals.