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ST. PETERSBURG — With a talent-laden Bishop Verot Tournament this weekend, Clearwater Central Catholic coach Stephen Shepherd wanted to get his players used to facing adversity.
In practice last week, the starters had to rally from five- and 10-point deficits against the backups and if they lost, they would have to run.
“Basically, they made sure they didn’t run much,” Shepherd said.
In a warmup Tuesday against Northside Christian, the strategy came in handy as the Marauders reeled off five straight points in the third set to secure a 25-13, 26-24, 26-24 win.
“We definitely didn’t want it going to a fourth set,” Shepherd said. “They were gaining momentum and the tide could have changed for us. It was good for us, though, because we had moments where we dominated and moments where we had to toughen up.”
The Marauders seemed as if they would easily handle the Mustangs after cruising through the first set, led by Kaylyn Baird’s five kills.
In the second, the Mustangs came to life and led 20-17 before the Marauders went on a 6-1 run. In a set that saw 14 ties and nine lead changes, the Marauders closed out the game after a 24-24 tie when Baird set up Megan Miller with a kill then Miller repaid Baird with an assist for the winner.
The Marauders put themselves in a hole in the third set with unforced errors and faced a five-point deficit twice, at 10-5 and 15-10.
They gradually began a comeback and then, facing a Northside game point, Miller hammered in a kill for a side out.
After a Mustangs timeout, Casey Moore served an ace and Morgan O’Brien and Miller had consecutive kills before Moore finished off the win with another perfectly placed ace.
“We just had to stay poised and stay together,” said Moore, who had eight kills. “I got a little nervous during their timeout but I kept telling myself, ‘Get the ball in, get the ball in.’ I guess it worked.”
Baird led the Marauders with 14 kills and O’Brien had 11 with Miller leading the team in assists with 30. Jennica Mullins led the Mustangs with 10 kills and Lauren Tozour had 23 digs.