Making The Cut: Mandarin, Episcopal Among Qualifiers As FHSAA Confirms Volleyball Playoffs – The Florida Times-Union

Celebration time arrived Sunday afternoon on Greenland Road, on Seagate Avenue and at the western side of Atlantic Boulevard.

Decision day turned out nicely for most of the Northeast Florida teams on the volleyball bubble Sunday, when the Florida High School Athletic Association announced its brackets for the regional tournament.

The FHSAA implemented its rankings, related to the MaxPreps system, to allocate at-large spots — four per region per class in Classes 2A through 7A, two per region in Class 1A — to the highest-placed teams that did not win district tournament titles.

The number-crunching worked out nicely for Mandarin.

The Mustangs held the 22nd-highest ranking in Florida entering the district tournament, but had to wait out a nervous 72 hours after losing their district semifinal to Creekside, then watching the Knights and DeLand both capture automatic bids. As it turned out, Mandarin’s ranking was sufficient to qualify in spite of the loss. The Mustangs (22-3) begin the Class 8A playoff Wednesday night at Windermere.

The occasion was particularly sweet for Fletcher, which had narrowly missed the 2019 and 2020 regionals despite winning the Gateway Conference title in both seasons. The Senators, who had all but assured their qualification by reaching the final of District 4-6A, will travel to the Alabama boundary to meet Gulf Breeze.

The tightest success story belonged to Episcopal. The Eagles, who had begun the week as the top seed in District 3-3A, squeezed in with the eighth and final berth in Region 1-3A. They’ll travel Tuesday to Pensacola Catholic.

Still, the day left disappointment for some.

Missing out were teams including Nease (13th in Region 1-6A), Clay (10th in Region 1-5A) and, most painfully, University Christian. Tallahassee North Florida Christian edged out University Christian by only .821 points for the last Region 1-2A postseason berth.

The FHSAA returned this year to the ranking system introduced in 2019, after the coronavirus pandemic prompted a change in format for 2020. Last year, the association determined playoff teams based on the older system, by which two teams per district — the district tournament champion and runner-up — both qualified for postseason. District tournament champions still qualify automatically, but the rankings sort out the others.

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REGION 1-7AHagerty at Timber Creek

Lake Brantley at Creekside

Bartram Trail at DeLand

Mandarin at Windermere

REGION 1-6APensacola Washington at Ponte Vedra

Tallahassee Chiles at Niceville

Fletcher at Gulf Breeze

Ocala Forest at Tallahassee Leon

REGION 1-5ADaytona Beach Seabreeze at Lynn Haven Mosley

Middleburg at Stanton

Choctawhatchee at Pine Ridge

Panama City Beach Arnold at Ridgeview

REGION 1-4APensacola at Alachua Santa Fe

Yulee at Fernandina Beach

Bolles at South Walton

Baker County at Bishop Kenny

REGION 1-3AEpiscopal at Pensacola Catholic

Florida High at Trinity Christian

Winter Park Trinity Prep at Montverde Academy

Providence at Ocala Trinity Catholic

REGION 1-2AGainesville Countryside at Gainesville Oak Hall

Christ’s Church at Tallahassee North Florida Christian

St. Johns Country Day at Tallahassee St. John Paul II

Aucilla Christian at Harvest Community

REGION 3-1AWilliston at Pierson Taylor

Newberry at Union County

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.