After coming out of arguably its toughest schedule ever relatively unscathed – 25-2 – St. Thomas Aquinas girls wrapped up its 24th consecutive district title Wednesday night, defeating visiting Nova 25-4, 25-7, 25-7.
Aquinas will host a regional quarterfinal match next Tuesday.
The program’s milestone victory also brought head coach Lisa Zielinski a step closer to a personal coaching milestone. Friday’s win was Zielinski’s 699th of her career 26-year career.
Win No. 700 will likely come in next week’s playoff opener.
Zielinski, who has only failed to capture a district title twice in her career – her first two seasons with Aquinas – and began the season with 674 career wins, said that the 2013 season has stood out.
“This has been a very rewarding season,” Zielinski began. “But we had to work. We’ve played a very tough schedule. We’ve been on the road a lot and been through a lot of tough, emotional games that really pushed us as a team.”
Zielinski said that the team had two strong performances on the road this season – going 4-1 in a volleyball tournament in Chicago and placing fifth in a national tournament.
St. Thomas’ only two losses this season came against non-South Florida opponents. Tampa Berkeley Prep and Illinois Mother McAuley were the only teams to get the best of the Lady Raiders this season. Also along the way, Aquinas defeated Venice; the team that defeated the Aquinas in last year’s Class 7A state championship game.
Friday’s victory over Nova (11-8) saw a total team effort as Zielinski played all of her players, including playing the reserves for the final two games.
Senior Kristyne Beauzil led with seven kills, while freshmen Brooke Bauer and Emma Dixon finished with six kills each; with Bauer also adding three digs.
The Titans, who will travel next Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs, got 10 digs and three kills from Maria Calderon.
If St. Thomas is to make it back to Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena, it’ll need to rely on all the experience gained while going through its treacherous schedule.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Zielinski said. “We’re going into the playoffs with some battle scars and that’s what you want.”