Tampa Bay HEAT sweeps district foe AATL
LAND O' LAKES — The top two teams in Class 2A, District 8 had cruised along in league play, combining for 15 victories while dropping nary a game. And after Thursday's first meeting, the Tampa Bay HEAT still holds that honor.
After a close opening game the HEAT rolled to a 25-21, 25-13, 25-17 victory over host Academy at the Lakes. Junior Catherine Truehart, part of an impressive trio of HEAT hitters with seemingly endless hangtime, blasted 19 kills to lead the way.
"We probably played the best we have all year. After the first game we figured out where they like to hit to, and our defense adjusted. Our passing was great tonight," said Truehart, the 5-10 junior who put down nine kills in the first game to set the tone.
Abigail Casiano, a 6-foot freshman, threw in 10 kills and senior Abigail Hodges came on strong in the final two games with all six of her kills, many of the straight-down variety.
AATL (17-3) had not dropped a game in any of its victories, but after falling behind 10-4 in the first set Thursday, the Wildcats could never get the margin under two. It got there on three occasions but each time the Wildcats committed an error.
A tremendous HEAT defense permitted the Wildcats juts six kills over the final two games. Freshman specialist Morgan Lee had 22 digs while libero Emma Westra supplied 20. Truehart added 11 to go with three blocks, all coming in the middle game.
"We lost our top hitter last year, and we knew we had to really focus on defense to become an all-around team," said HEAT head coach Mark Kachurak. Truehart's sister, Victoria, led the HEAT to the program's first state semifinal appearance last year.
Sophomore Gigi Chiaramonte paced the Wildcats with nine kills. Sophomores Hannah Nunes and Lauren Rabbottini had a marvelous defensive effort with 14 digs each, and setter Alexis Forrester, also a tenth grader, went for 14 assists and 10 digs.
Madison Lee gave the HEAT (11-3) four aces and setter Allison Rogers finished with 35 assists.
"Our passing was on point tonight. I've never been on a team like this where there's no drama. And if there is a squabble, we end it right away," Casiano said. Three of her kills came in an impressive nine-point span as the HEAT took control fo the second game.
The squads, on an almost-certain path to face off in the 2A-2 region semifinals, meet again back at AATL next Thursday. The home-school based HEAT does not have a home gym.