The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) Dragons won the 32nd Annual Mason-Dixon Girls Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, October 12, 2019. The Dragons took on the Mississippi School for the Deaf (MSD) Bulldogs in the championship game, winning in three sets (25-21, 22-25, 15-12). The Dragons have now won a total of 16 Mason-Dixon titles, the last one in 2015.
Eight deaf schools from around the southeastern U.S. traveled to St. Augustine to take part in the three-day event, held on the FSDB campus. Teams competed in pool play on Friday, October 11, which resulted in seeding assignments for the double-elimination tournament on Saturday.
FSDB entered the tournament with the best record (6-7) and the highest winning percentage (0.461), giving them the top seed in pool play. The Dragons were grouped in Pool A with Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) Colonels, Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD) Vikings, and Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB) Cardinals. Pool B involved Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) Silent Warriors, MSD Bulldogs, South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind (SCSDB) Hornets, and Louisiana School for the Deaf (LSD) War Eagles.
The FSDB Dragons won all three matches in pool play, beating KSD (25-4, 25-4), VSDB (25-17, 25-4), and TSD (26-24, 25-9). FSDB was awarded the number one seed for the tournament.
During the first match of the tournament, Florida took on Kentucky, the number 8 seed. The Dragons won in straight sets (25-12, 25-2) and moved ahead in the winner's bracket to face Mississippi.
The Bulldogs were a tougher challenge for the FSDB Dragons, but the girls worked together as a team to beat them (25-23, 25-19). Mississippi eventually fought their way through the bracket to face off against the Dragons again in the championship game.
In the semifinal game, Florida took on Alabama. The Dragons won the first set 25-16, while the Silent Warriors took the second set 27-25. It was the first time the Dragons had to play a third set. They built up a 4-0 lead and never looked back, winning the match 15-8 and advancing to the championship game.
The second semifinal match was between Alabama and Mississippi. The Silent Warriors had previously beaten the Bulldogs in Pool Play (25-16, 25-18). Alabama took the first set 25-22, but Mississippi stormed back and evened the games up with a 25-16 win. The final set was back and forth until the Bulldogs were able to win the last two points (15-13) and advance to the championship game, setting up a rematch against the Dragons.
In front of the home crowd, the Dragons won the first set 25-21. The Bulldogs took the second set 22-25, forcing the third set. If Mississippi won the third set, the teams would play another best of three series to determine the winner since FSDB had not lost a match yet. Fortunately, the Dragons persevered and came out on top with a 15-12 win and took home the Mason-Dixon championship title for the first time since 2014.
"It's has been a lot of fun coaching a team with this much talent," said FSDB Head Coach Tiffany Kawohl. "I don't think I've ever had a team with 12 girls so equally skilled. There's no weak position or rotation, and that is a coach's dream!"
Kahowl is currently in her 17th season as head coach. She took over the program in 2003, and since then, her teams have dominated Mason-Dixon Tournaments. Out of the 16 championships that the Dragons have won, Kawohl is responsible for 11, including eight in a row from 2008-2015.
Senior Nolan Fisher stated, "Our team played really well and worked hard to earn the Mason-Dixon Girls Volleyball Champions title. This team means a lot to me and has helped everyone on the team grow as athletes and people." Fisher led the team in serving percentage (94%) and service receptions (46).