The Gulf Breeze High volleyball team's four-game victory against Panama City Arnold on Tuesday night wasn't one that head coach Waynn Sellers would call "pretty."
The Marlins (20-8) used a multi-weapon attack during the Region 1-5A semifinal to hang with the Dolphins (28-2) throughout the match, winning a game against Gulf Breeze for the first time in four meetings this season.
But the Dolphins had a multi-weapon offense of their own and staved off the Marlins 25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 to advance to the Region 1-5A championship Saturday at Jacksonville Bishop Kenny. The Crusaders swept Ponte Vedra on Tuesday in the region's other semifinal.
"Volleyball, a lot of times, comes down to errors," said Sellers, whose Dolphins finished as the Class 5A runner-up last year. "And we were fortunate that we didn't have as many errors as they did. But there were a lot of errors, though. But whether it was pretty or ugly, we still won. We're still going to Jacksonville this weekend."
And that's thanks in large part to the Dolphins' offense, which put down a team total of 51 kills to hold off the scrappy Marlins. Arnold was the first team in three seasons to win a set against Gulf Breeze in region tournament play.
But the lone game loss was something the Dolphins said they'll learn from as they continue on their quest for the program's first state championship.
"I think it will help us for the region finals," said outside hitter Caitlin Chapman, who led the Dolphins with 18 kills. "I think it's good that we went to four games with someone because it will prepare us for the games we're going to play in the future. I'm glad Arnold played well because we needed to face that."
And overcome it. After dropping the third game, the Dolphins did just that in a dramatic fourth game that saw six lead changes before Gulf Breeze took control.
With Arnold leading 14-13, Alex Karcher tipped perfectly over the Marlins' block to tie the game. Then, the junior served an ace that was followed by a kill from Anna Bailey, and another from Chapman, to give Gulf Breeze a three-point lead that it never relinquished.
"Arnold played a really good game, and I knew they were going to," Sellers said. "They blocked well, they got us out of sequence. But that's the best thing that probably could have happened -- them taking a game away from us. It really helped because, you know, you can't just walk through everybody. They wanted to win. That's what they were here for."
Bailey and outside hitter Ally Hurd finished with 10 kills each, while libero Allison Proctor put forth a stellar defensive effort with 16 digs. Karcher finished with seven kills, 10 digs, six aces and two blocks.
At Gulf Breeze
Region 1-5A semifinal
Gulf Breeze def. Panama City Arnold
25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20
Gulf Breeze (27-1) -- Ally Hurd 10 kills, 1 assist, 7 digs; Alex Karcher 7 kills, 2 assists, 6 aces, 10 digs, 2 blocks; Sage Dunne 19 assists, 2 digs; Caitlin Chapman 18 kills, 1 ace, 5 digs; Mollie Johnson 4 kills, 2 digs, 2 blocks; Anna Bailey 10 kills, 2 assists, 2 aces, 14 digs; Allison Proctor 2 kills, 1 assist, 3 aces, 16 digs; Savannah Johnson 22 assists, 1 ace, 11 digs.