Volleyball: PHU defeats East Lake for PCAC championship
EAST LAKE – Palm Harbor University played shorthanded in Wednesday night’s PCAC finals, but the Hurricanes still managed to win the championship. After a sweep of Seminole in the semifinals, PHU dropped the first game against East Lake but then won three straight for a 22-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-18 win.
PHU starters Annamarie Huy (knee) and Renee Mussler (ankle) were held out of Wednesday’s matches. Both are expected to return for the district tournament, which begins on Tuesday.
“(East Lake) played great in the first game,’’ PHU coach Dexter Rogers said. “We had a new right side hitter for Annamarie and Renee was also out. I was so proud of our effort. They knew they just had to forget about who was out and just play. We made some adjustments and managed to get through it.’’
The PCAC final was a preview of the Class 7A-10 district tournament. The top four seeds in the PCAC are in that district. East Lake, the No. 3 seed, swept St. Petersburg, the No. 2 seed, in its semifinal match. The Eagles carried that momentum into the first game of the final against PHU.
East Lake (17-5) scored the first three points, but PHU ripped off 10 straight to take a 10-3 lead. Not be outdone, East Lake went on a run of its own, scoring 12 of the next 13 points to take a 15-11 lead. During that run, East Lake got aces from Shannon Farley and Kayla Yasso and big kills from Danielle Ballou and Jessie Hansen. The teams stayed within three points of each other until East Lake scored the final three points of the match off PHU errors to take a 1-0 lead.
The second game was close throughout. There were 12 different ties before PHU went on a 7-2 run to close it out and tie the match at 1-1.
PHU (21-5) started the third game with an early 9-0 run and jumped out to a 13-4 lead. That hole was too big for East Lake, which could only close the gap to 17-11. PHU’s Julia Angelo helped close out the match with two kills. She had a total of nine against East Lake.
In the final game, PHU also used a quick start to get out to an 11-5 lead. From there, the Hurricanes front line came up with some key blocks and Angelo and Emma Strong knocked down some big kills to put it away.
In the only other match between the district rivals, PHU defeated East Lake 3-0.
“In the first match against them we took ourselves out of it,’’ East Lake coach Matt Burns said. “Too many mistakes. But tonight, taking a game off of them, it gives us confidence. I know we can match up with this team and we can beat them. We just have to stay out of our own way.’’
East Lake was led by Ballou's nine kills and seven from Jordan Duffy. Yasso had 18 digs.