The Warriors will host the Titans at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first state semifinal appearance for either program. The winner will play in the FHSAA Class 9A State Championship Nov. 18 at the University of North Florida Arena.
Before they dropped the second set of their eventual 3-1 victory over Oviedo in the regional championship Tuesday, the West Orange volleyball team (27-0) had not lost a set in more than a month-and-a-half — a span that lasted from Sept. 16 to Nov. 7.
On Saturday, in the FHSAA Class 9A State Semifinals, they'll get to play the team that took that set from them back on Sept. 16 — their neighborhood rivals, the Olympia Titans (19-9).
Not only did the Titans take the second set of that match, played in a tournament, but — within the standard tournament format, where matches are three sets as opposed to five — Olympia nearly dealt the Warriors what would have been their only loss of the season, losing 24-22 in the deciding set.
Now, they'll meet for a third time this season at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at West Orange High, but this time the stakes will be higher than they've ever been for either team — it is the first appearance for both programs in a state semifinal.
"It's awesome — we've talked a lot (in practice) about enjoying the opportunity and that it's really kind of special," Olympia head coach Mitch Sadowsky said. "To see our two teams get there and to meet each other in the semifinals is a really cool experience for us."
Though the girls who will be on the court attend different schools, many have known each other for years through club volleyball and annual matches against one another.
"We're all very close and we play each other a whole bunch," West Orange sophomore Taylor Head said of the girls for the Warriors and the Titans. "We're very excited."
Not only do the girls know one another, but the coaches of the two teams — Sadowsky and West Orange's Ross Usie — have gotten to know one another, also.
"Over the last few years, me and Mitch have become pretty good friends," Usie said.
The two share a mutual respect for the jobs they do. Sadowsky's Titans are annually a strong team that have several playoff runs to their credit, and Usie's Warriors are experience success on a level the program never had before he arrived on campus.
"(Usie has) done such an amazing job with that program," Sadowsky said.
Alas, only one of the two local teams will emerge victorious from Saturday's match and get to travel to Jacksonville Nov. 18 for the FHSAA Class 9A State Final at the University of North Florida.