ST. PETERSBURG — Northeast has been in many matches this season lasting less than an hour, all of them easy victories.
On Wednesday, the tables were turned as Clearwater handed the Vikings a 25-7, 25-15, 25-8 loss in the first round of the Class 5A region playoffs in a match that lasted 52 minutes.
“It became frustrating for the girls because they experienced situations where the plays that usually work against other teams failed to work against (Clearwater),” Northeast coach Amanda McGowan said.
Northeast setter Casey Barcszcs did all she could to keep her team in the game with 10 of her 17 digs in the first game, but Clearwater’s team play overwhelmed the Vikings. Clearwater (20-8), which beat Northeast (15-6) in the same scenario last season, showcased its depth as the Tornadoes used all 15 players, most of whom entered the match in the second game.
“The beneficial part of our team is that the second team gets so much better throughout the season because they’re facing the first team all season and, as you know, that first team is pretty talented,” Clearwater coach Kara Betourne said.
Betourne, who decided not to play Nikki O’Rourke on the front line in preparation for the next round, praised the effort of Kahley Patrick, who found Jen Opper early on as Opper had seven of her match-high 11 kills in the first game.
The Tornadoes move on to face regular-season nemesis East Lake, which has beaten Clearwater in four matches this season.
“We feel we have a good chance against them because we know each other so well,” Betourne said. “It was good tonight to get everyone involved because it will take a solid team effort against (East Lake) to get a win.”