7A-10: Palm Harbor University still has East Lake's number
CLEARWATER – Palm Harbor University’s volleyball program has gone through all sorts of adjustments in the past four years. The coach changed. Key players graduated. Others missed time with injuries.
But the one constant during that time has been the Hurricanes' mastery over rival East Lake.
Since losing to the Eagles in the 2012 region semifinals, PHU had won eight straight in the series entering Thursday’s Class 7A, District 10 championship match.
The dominance continued with the Hurricanes winning 25-16, 25-22, 25-15.
PHU (17-2-1) has not just swept every match during this four-year stretch. The Hurricanes have only dropped one game to East Lake in that span.
“Winning never gets old,” said PHU second-year coach Dexter Rogers, who won his second straight district title.
What made Thursday’s performance even more impressive was that the Hurricanes were without their best player, Julia Angelo, who has a sprained knee and will miss at least another week. PHU middle hitter Kylie Stojak injured her foot Wednesday and played at 75 percent, according to Rogers.
“We always seem to have injuries around this time of year,” Rogers said. “I keep telling all the girls they have to be ready and they continue to step up.”
Marina Kennedy, a key reserve the past two seasons, filled in for Angelo and finished with a game-high nine kills and two service aces. Zeena Khazendar, the libero, had 17 digs.
The Eagles (18-4) also were without one of their top players. Jordan Duffy, a senior, was injured diving for a ball near the stands in a semifinal win over St. Petersburg. Down 21-17 in the second game, East Lake scored four straight points to tie it but could never take the lead down the stretch.
Danielle Ballou had 15 kills and Kayce Rhoden had six blocks to lead the Eagles.
“We’re familiar with PHU. Probably too familiar with one another,” East Lake coach Matt Burns said.
There is a chance both teams could meet for a fourth time this season in the region semifinals.
“Hopefully we can keep playing and get some of our players back,” Rogers said. “Everything right now is falling into place for us.”