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CLEARWATER — Entering this season, Countryside had some huge shoes to fill with the graduation of Madison Truluck, a three-time all-state selection, a four-time all-county pick and a PrepVolleyball.com All-America honorable mention.
The Cougars, led by a core group of seniors and juniors, started the season with 16 consecutive wins before losing to Palm Harbor University. They lost once more, to East Lake, before the start of the Class 6A-7 playoffs.
“We might have exceeded our expectations a little bit, but we set goals of winning the (Pinellas County Athletic Conference) and the districts and we felt we had the talent to do so,” Countryside senior captain Davionna DiSalvatore said. “We’ve done a great job of serving and passing this year, which has helped us deal with the loss of (Truluck).”
The Cougars (23-2), who reached the final four in states last year, began their playoff run Wednesday with a dominating three-set performance over Riverview, 25-8, 25-12, 25-19.
After cruising through the first game, highlighted by a 5-0 run thanks to ferocious kills by Christina Berry, Savannah Stona and Megan Siminski, the Cougars began the second game with 11 straight points during Sara Wright’s masterful serves. But the Cougars had to fend off a lapse of focus in the third. The Sharks kept the score tight before the Cougars pulled away.
Berry led the Cougars with 10 kills, followed by Stona with nine and Nicole Dunn with eight. Wright had 32 assists for the Cougars.
Copeland Jayma led the Sharks with six kills.