SEBRING - DeSoto used the strong net play of Tishonna Riley and a relentless offensive attack to wear down Sebring in four sets in a Class 5A-District 11 match on Tuesday night.
The 25-14, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 win improved the Bulldogs to 3-1 in district play, while the loss dropped the Blue Streaks to 7-4 overall and 2-2.
"You can't fall that far behind a team as good as DeSoto and expect to win," said Sebring volleyball coach Venessa Sinness. "We had some really great moments, but we had so many mental mistakes and it cost us the match.
"Riley is a great player and she beat us the last time we played them, but we beat ourselves tonight."
DeSoto jumped out to a big lead and was never threatened in the first set, but Sebring fought valiantly in the second set, and a spike by Liz Whitehead gave the Blue Streaks a 13-12 lead.
The Bulldogs called time out to regroup and ripped off a string of points behind the strong serving of Datasia Wallace and the powerful spikes by Riley, who had a match-high 13 kills, to take a 21-17 lead.
The Blue Streaks clawed back within 22-20, but an ace serve by DeSoto's Casey Hall, an unforced error and a net violation against Sebring gave the Bulldogs the second set victory. "You have to make adjustments during the match and DeSoto did a better job than we did," Sinness said. "We played them earlier this season and we know what they want to do and they know what we want to do and they exploited our weaknesses."
Sebring came out with renewed vigor in the third set and stormed out to an 11-9 lead behind excellent serving from Whitehead and dominating net play from Cadie O'Hern and Jordan Hinkle.
The talented Bulldogs battled for every point and some of the rallies lasted quite a while before the Blue Streaks pulled away.
Maci Harris scored several points with her serves and Sebring took advantage of several DeSoto unforced errors to record the win.
The Blue Streaks played well in the final set as Caylin Webb found holes in the Bulldog defense and excellent serves by Lindsey Whittington gave Sebring a 20-16 lead.
DeSoto used a time out and was a different squad when they came back on the floor. The Bulldogs ripped off a string of points behind Hall's rocket serves and Riley's barrage of kill shots to take a 22-20 lead over a stunned Sebring team that called a time out.
The time out didn't slow down the Bulldogs as Hall had an ace serve, the Blue Streaks had an unforced error and a Sebring spike sailed long to give the key district match to DeSoto.
"It was all us," said Sinnes. "We weren't disciplined enough or mentally tough enough and DeSoto took advantage of our mistakes."
Sebring is back in action on Tuesday with a district match at Hardee.
"We know what teams are going to do and we have to be prepared to play mentally and physically," Sinness said. "We shouldn't be making the same mistakes we made the first time around and it's up to us to get things right."