KISSIMMEE — The last time Tarpon Springs appeared in the state volleyball tournament, Spongers players Kelsi Collins and Ashlyn MacGregor hadn’t been born.
And heading into this season, the Spongers didn’t think they had a chance of playing in the state tournament at Silver Spurs Arena.
But Thursday night they were in the spotlight — their first state appearance since 1993 — playing state power Fort Myers in the 6A semifinal. It was a far cry from Tarpon’s home gym, which Collins termed as “cozy.”
“Walking in here it was like, ‘Wow, we’re playing in here?’ ” Collins said. “But once we stepped on the court it was just volleyball from there. There weren’t any distractions. The crowd is load but we have that at our place. The lights are bright, but we have that, too. Once you start playing, it’s volleyball.”
The Spongers weren’t distracted early, taking a quick 7-1 lead on the Green Wave in the opening game. But that’s when experience took over.
Three game later, Tarpon Springs was sent home, 25-20, 25-21, 25-18.
“We have a taste of it now,” Collins said. “Who would think Tarpon Springs would be in the state playoffs? I know I didn’t. I wanted to, but I didn’t think so. Now that we’ve got a taste, I think we’ll train a little harder to get back.”
“A catalyst,” Tarpon coach Patrick Sneed called it.
MacGregor led the Spongers (25-4) with nine kills and seven blocks. Collins added six kills and 18 digs, while setter Jenn Smith has 18 assists, 11 digs and four blocks. Kelly Lorenz also had 18 digs.
But Tarpon didn’t have an answer for the Green Wave’s middle hitters. Six-foot-2 sophomore Chelsea Oliver had 12 kills and 5-11 senior Alyssa Goldenhart had 10 kills. Rachel Schaaf led Fort Myers with 14 kills.
“We just gave them too many easy balls back and anybody will tell you, once you’re in system and you have your studs up there, they know what to do with it,” Sneed said. “They had the advantage because they were more consistent to it than we were."