Jacksonville, Fla.-- The College of Central Florida volleyball team didn't relinquish its FCSAA State Championship without a battle.
The defending state champions navigated their way through an elimination match on Sunday following a tough five-set loss to start the day, but in the end came up short in their bid for a repeat.
Hillsborough Community College earned its first state title since 2007 with a 25-23, 15-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-12 win over CF on Sunday afternoon on the campus of FSC-Jacksonville.
"What a great time to come together as a team," CF coach Flavia Siqueira said. "We've had our ups and downs and injuries this season, but we came out this weekend and played our best."
The loss denied the volleyball program the chance to become the first sport at CF to repeat as state champions since the baseball team in 1997-1998.
Despite the defeat, though, the Patriots are headed to the NJCAA National Tournament for the third consecutive season - the longest streak for any major sport in school history.
CF will compete in the national tournament in Casper, Wyo., beginning on November 21.
The Patriots (26-12), ranked No. 10 in the nation, gave the No. 6 Hawks all they wanted and nearly knocked them off for the second time on the FSC-J campus this season.
CF won in five sets over HCC on October 12 and was down 13-12 in the tiebreaker after a kill by Raveen Golston.
"I can't complain about either of our losses (on Sunday)," said Siqueira, whose team has lost eight matches this season to teams ranked in the NJCAA Top 20. "The girls played hard and I am very proud of them for the way they've matured this season."
HCC, though, wouldn't be denied of its first state title since 2007 and scored the final two points of the match and earned its third win in four tries against CF this season.
The Patriots, who were 7-0 against the Hawks entering this season, fell to 3-1 all-time against HCC at the state tournament.
The Hawks (37-4) avenged a three-set loss to CF in last year's championship match.
HCC started the day off with a four-set win over FSC-Jacksonville and had a long break prior to the state final, while CF had to rebound from a tough loss to SCOF-Manatee to start the day.
In the first set, the Patriots trailed by four early, but made things interesting late.
Brown finished the championship match with 24 kills and eight blocks, while Golston added 23 kills.
Marina Adami dished out 62 assists and had 10 digs in the finals for CF and Jorddalys Santos contributed 17 digs.
On Sunday, Brown (50 kills), Golston (43 kills), Saunders (21 kills) and Adami (141 assists) led the way.
Brown started the day out with 16 kills in the five-set loss to Manatee and tied Golston for the team-high with 10 in the sweep of the Manatees.
Overall, there were nine ties in the first set and CF took its first lead at 17-16 on the sixth kill of the set by Golston.
Brown's kill tied things once again at 23, before HCC middle Shelby Walker had a pair of kills to put her team ahead.
Golston wouldn't let her team fall two sets down, though, as she smashed four kills in the second set and keyed an early 10-4 run for the Patriots.
After the Hawks got to within 13-10, CF put together a 12-5 run, as Brown and Golston combined for five kills.
CF had a chance to go up 2-1 after a service error by the Hawks enabled the Patriots to lead 24-23.
The Patriots were unable to take advantage of this chance and HCC responded with three consecutive points and ended up with the 2-1 edge.
In all, there were 10 ties in the third set and neither team led by more than three points.
CF led 23-21 after a kill by Amanda Saunders, but HCC was able to build its fourth 2-1 edge on the Patriots in as many matches this season.
Golston and Brown once again stepped up for CF and combined for 12 kills during the fourth set and an early 5-0 run was all it would need.
The Patriots led by as many as five and tied the match on Golston's kill after the Hawks had closed to within three.
CF clinched its spot in the national tournament with a 25-16, 25-21, 29-27 win over SCOF-Manatee in the Atlantic District Championship Match.
Brown smacked six kills and two blocks in the opener for the Patriots, who then scored the first six points of the second set and wound extending their lead to 20-7.
From there, the Manatees (23-12) used a 14-3 run and got to within 23-21, before Golston's kill started a set-closing string of two points for the Patriots.
The Manatees, though, battled back with five straight points and earned their first of two serves for set point, however, Golston's kill and ace by Jorddalys Santos put the Patriots on top 27-26.
After Manatee tied things up, Adami put a kill down for CF and Golston slammed a crosscourt shot that set her team to nationals.
The win was third in five matches for the Patriots against Manatee and their second sweep in a back-and-forth rivalry.
CF's win marked the second season it has eliminated Manatee from the state tournament.
It also helped the Patriots stop the Manatees from being the first team since the Patriots in 2011 to win two elimination matches on the final day of the tournament and qualify for nationals.
Two years ago, CF defeated Hillsborough twice in its inaugural season to qualify for nationals.
The Patriots found themselves in a winner-take-all district championship match after a sluggish start led them to a loss to SCOF-Manatee earlier on Sunday.
CF ralled from down two sets and forced a fifth-set tiebreaker, but couldn't overtake the Manatees.
Manatee won the match 25-22, 25-19, 20-25, 20-25, 15-10 and avoided losing a match for the second time this season against CF where it had a 2-0 lead.
The Patriots had rallied for a victory after a 2-0 hole on September 6 in Ocala against the Manatees.
In the first tiebreaker, CF fell behind 6-0, however, it battled back to within 7-6 after a kill by Brown.
The Manatees, though, never relinquished the lead and the Patriots were unable to get any momentum off a pair of late service errors.
To get to the tiebreaker, Golston ended the third set with consecutive kills to close a 9-4 run.
CF then jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the fourth set and led by as many as eight on its way to knotting things up.