CLEARWATER — Other than finding an incomplete record online, Clearwater Central Catholic coach Stephen Shepherd admitted to not knowing much about Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.
A full scouting report wasn’t necessary.
The Marauders, a team with state title aspirations, administered a thrashing to the runnerup Cougars, winning 25-6, 25-10, 25-18 in a Class 3A region quarterfinal that took less than an hour to complete.
“I knew (Cardinal Mooney) had played Northside and took them to four,” Shepherd said. “So I felt like we would have the upper hand.”
Still, Shepherd was wary — at least initially. Perhaps his team would be complacent. Maybe CCC would overlook the Cougars. There could be an off night.
The Marauders (24-5) erased any doubts within the first five minutes. Shea Hamilton was either digging volleyballs or smacking them across the court for a kill. Katie Moore made her presence known in the middle. And Sara Brown was a force on the outside.
“It’s tough playing in matches like this,” Shepherd said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you don’t want your team playing up or down. You want them to stay at a consistent level throughout.”
After dominating the first game, CCC wasted no time taking control of the second, building a 15-2 lead en route to the win.
By the third, Shepherd was able substitute to allow the seniors on the team a chance to play in the postseason.
“I wanted to make sure some girls were able to play because we might not be able to have that opportunity in the next few matches,” Shepherd said.
“Regardless of who’s in there, we want to still keep the status quo. We’re still going to hold everyone to the same standards.”
Hamilton led the Marauders with 13 digs and 12 kills. Brown had 10 digs and seven kills, and Moore added seven kills and four blocks.
7A: Sarasota too tough for Clearwater to topple
CLEARWATER — Leading up to Tuesday’s Class 7A region quarterfinal against Sarasota, Clearwater was playing some of its best volleyball of the season. The Tornadoes had won the PCAC championship and swept both district tournament matches.
But it was apparent from the opening point against the Sailors that it was going to take a near-perfect effort for Clearwater to advance.
The Tornadoes had spurts of good play, but inconsistency and a solid front line by Sarasota led to a 23-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-17, 15-9 loss.
Clearwater, which has nine seniors, ended its season 25-6. Sarasota (20-8) will next play at Lakewood Ranch in a rematch of the 7A-10 district final.
“It was absolutely rough to say goodbye to those seniors,” Clearwater coach Kara Betourne said. “They have accomplished so much this season. It’s not like we took Sarasota lightly. We played hard and took it to five games.”
Clearwater had to grind from the opening game. There were eight ties in Game 1, and a Sailors kill tied the match for the last time at 23. The Tornadoes hammered home the final two points on kills by Samantha Reeves and Ciara Lusnia to take a 1-0 lead.
Then Sarasota evened the match. Tied at 15, the Sailors went on a 4-0 run to take an 18-15 lead. Another 4-0 run ended the game.
In the third game, Clearwater held a slight 8-6 lead before putting away with a 9-0 run that included three aces from Darby Oakes and three unforced errors by Sarasota. The Tornadoes led 24-10 before eventually winning 25-15 on a net violation by the Sailors.
Sarasota’s 5-1 run at the end of the third game was a sign of things to come. Sarasota took the first six points of Game 4. While Clearwater cut it to 15-14, Sarasota ripped off an 8-0 run for a 23-15 lead.
“I told the girls that if they can go on a run, we can go on a run,” Sarasota coach Chad Sutton said.
In the deciding game, Sarasota kept the momentum. The Sailors jumped out to a 3-1 lead and never trailed. Clearwater tried to hang in and cut it to 11-9. But Sarasota scored the final four points to end the match and Clearwater’s season.
“We couldn’t pass to save our lives,” Betourne said. “And when you can’t pass then you can’t get anything going. (Sarasota) did a good job of taking Sam (Reeves) out of her game. But if you can’t pass, that’s what happens.”
Reeves had seven kills — but none in the fifth.
The Sarasota duo of Lauren Hochstetler (19 kills), Desiree Leiding (13 kills) and Toni Mogensen (12 kills) proved too much for Clearwater.
7A: Lakewood Ranch sweeps Seminole
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lauren Owens is the type of player every winning team needs.
The Lakewood Ranch senior doesn’t accumulate a lot of glory stats like kills and assists, but does the other things that make winning possible.
The outside hitter showed her mettle with a team-high 13 digs to help spark Lakewood Ranch to a Class 7A region quarterfinal victory over Seminole on Tuesday.
The Mustangs (23-5) swept the match 25-22, 25-12, 25-21. Coach Perri Hankins said her team played well enough to win, but praised Owens.
“It wasn’t our best match. They had one of the quickest middles we’ve ever seen and we had some trouble with that,” Hankins said.
“Lauren Owens played real well for us. She got a lot of balls in the backcourt. She got a lot of digs to target and did very well with her passing. They hit a lot of off-speed stuff and we had a hard time getting those balls up.”
Lakewood Ranch was tied at 22 in the first game before running off the final three points. It dominated Seminole (19-11) in the second game and overcame some problems in Game 3 to come back and put the match away.
3A: ODA takes out Calvary Christian
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy’s volleyball team is a habitual slow starter. The Thunder takes a little bit to get going before putting it all together.
In Tuesday’s Class 3A region quarterfinal, ODA dropped the first set to Calvary Christian before winning 20-25, 25-23, 25-18, 27-25.
ODA (15-5) struggled initially to combat the Warriors’ frontline size between Jessica Peiffer, Carley Plentovich and Savannah Plentovich. After Calvary won Game 1, the Thunder mixed things up and utilized its defense and serving.
The final game almost got away from ODA after it opened a 16-9 lead. The Warriors rallied and eventually took a late 24-23 lead before the Thunder won the final three points. ODA faces Clearwater Central Catholic next, which knocked it out of the playoffs last year.
“I think it’s exciting that we get a second chance, because last year I felt like we could definitely sweep (CCC) away,” outside hitter Lauren Maxey said.
“It ended up not happening, but I think we just have to sit the team down and say, ‘This is our revenge time.’ ”
2A: Crusaders put up a fight, but still fall
Keswick Christian played well enough to keep the score close in two games against host Tampa Bay HEAT.
But the Crusaders were unable to pull through in either one. That was the difference in a 26-24, 25-15, 25-23 loss in the Class 2A region quarterfinals.
“It was a tight battle in two of those games,” Keswick coach Karrmayne King said. “We just couldn’t finish.”
Madison Span was the Crusaders’ best hitter and led the team in kills, King said.
Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report, which uses information from the Herald.