EAST LAKE — Palm Harbor University senior middle hitter Logan Miller has waited four years to celebrate in East Lake’s gym. There have been so many past disappointments that she began to wonder if it would ever happen.
Miller and her teammates finally got the chance Thursday night after an emphatic 25-20, 25-18, 26-24 win over the Eagles in the Class 8A-8 district final. It’s the Hurricanes’ second straight win over the Eagles after beating them last week in the PCAC championship. It’s also the first time East Lake has been swept since Oct. 17, 2009, against Orlando First Academy.
PHU (15-12) will host Wharton on Tuesday night in a region quarterfinal. East Lake (17-3) will travel to Plant.
“It’s a huge win,” Miller said. “I’ve been waiting for this for four years. I’ve never won in this gym. We’ve been preparing for this for so long.”
The trio of Miller, Lee Nielsen and Naomi Mack gave East Lake fits all night. Miller and Nielsen each had 14 kills, and Mack added nine. Abbey Bouchard fed them all night with 34 assists.
Palm Harbor U. set the tone in the first game when it led almost from the start and never let up. The Hurricanes held a 12-5 lead after a Mackenzie Shively kill, and East Lake could only get as close as five late in the game. A Miller kill ended the first game and gave PHU a 1-0 lead.
The second game was much closer, with PHU holding a narrow 16-15 lead. Then the Hurricanes went on a 4-0 run to take the lead behind kills from Nielsen and Shively. They scored the final four points of the game to go up 2-0.
The third game was full of drama.
PHU scored five straight points to tie it at 16 and actually held a 22-18 lead. But East Lake came back behind kills from Mary Gillis and Shelby Younger and tied it at 24.
The match ended on two straight Mack kills to spark the Hurricanes’ celebration.
I just wanted to concentrate on getting the set and putting it down,” Mack said. “We couldn’t go down without a fight. We wanted to show everybody that we’re not what our record says. I think we showed that.”
Prior to Mack’s heroics, PHU coach Tara Kuk called a timeout to remind her team they have been in this position before.
“In the middle of the season it was 14-14 (in the fifth game) and Mary (Gillis) was back to serve and she aced us twice,” Kuk said. “I called that timeout and told them that they are getting a do-over. You don’t usually get one, but here it is. Stop Mary’s serve this time and you’ll win this game. Sure enough, they did.”
The Eagles were led by 21 assists from Christy Dunham, 38 digs from Sierra McComeskey and 31 digs by Younger.
East Lake coach Mike Estes was impressed by the Hurricanes.
“(The Hurricanes) are playing so consistent right now,” Estes said. “Their timing is good. They had very few bad swings, and that’s all timing. And their block was good.
“We had a non-existent block. We might have touched a couple balls. We were just too late.”
7A-10: Tornadoes shrug off Game 1 lapses
CLEARWATER — She did not have to scream or stomp or shout. All Clearwater coach Kara Betourne had to do to rouse her team from a first-game slumber in Thursday’s Class 7A, District 10 final was deliver one stirring message.
“I asked the girls how bad do they want it,” Betourne said. “We’re here, and we’re the defending district champions. Why not go out and win it again?”
The Tornadoes emerged fiery and ferocious, and responded by winning the next three games for a 21-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-13 victory over St. Petersburg.
During the regular season, Clearwater (20-7) split two matches with the Green Devils, each extending to five games. It appeared Thursday’s was headed for another drawn-out affair.
But things changed for good in the third. St. Petersburg was dominant from the start, jumping ahead 10-6. That’s when the Tornadoes went on a tear, scoring 10 straight points to go up 15-10. Clearwater never relinquished its lead.
“I think the most important thing in the entire match was our serving,” Betourne said. “We didn’t miss many serves and we were great in serve receive.”
Allie Russell led the Tornadoes with 11 kills. Samantha Reeves added nine kills and three blocks.
Betourne, though, said the player that made everything click was setter Haley Barrett, who was relentless in pushing the tempo.
“After the first game, we just had to come out ready to play, Barrett said. “We usually have some pretty tough matches with St. Petersburg. We just had to keep our momentum throughout the match. We couldn’t have it like a roller coaster. We had to keep it steady.”
6A-10: Tarpon survives test from Mitchell
TRINITY — Mitchell, having never beaten Tarpon Springs in volleyball, found itself tied at 10 in the decisive fifth game of Thursday’s Class 6A-10 final.
But that’s when Tarpon standout Ashlyn MacGregor came straight up the middle for one of her game-high 38 kills, then later added a big block as Tarpon took the last five points for a 25-15, 25-27, 25-21, 25-27, 15-10 victory.
“We really wanted it that last game,” MacGregor said. “We knew it would be a struggle, expected it go at least four.”
What she nor anyone expected is how Mitchell forced the fifth. Mustangs coach Keith Paulk, with his team up 20-19, decided it was a good time to insert freshman Payton Murchie for her “blistering, unusual serve.”
Thing was, she had never played in a varsity match. All Murchie did was hit two serves that Tarpon couldn’t get back. Lyndsey Lane ended the game with two of her 15 kills.
Tarpon (22-3) at first looked like it might roll, going on a 15-1 run in the opening game with MacGregor posting 10 kills. But Mitchell (18-6) did a better job of getting her to the back row quicker in the second, where the Mustangs were keyed by five kills by Daniele
Green, all after the score was 14 apiece.
It was just 20-19 Tarpon in the third game before MacGregor helped close it out with two kills and one of her eight blocks.
Spongers sophomore Allie Cullens had a career night defensively with seven blocks, Kelsi Collins flew around gathering 14 digs to go with her nine kills and setter Dominique Scalisi had 40 assists.
Mitchell’s Shayna Filippelli posted 47 assists . Jessika Hester matched Lane for the team-lead with 15 kills and both Hester and Filippelli had 30 digs.
“This was an opportunity game for us,” Paulk said. “You have the chance to finally beat Tarpon but if you lose, the season’s not over. I tried to stress that to take the pressure off the girls, but they still feel that pressure of trying to beat them.”
Paulk thinks his team has a “solid shot” at a rematch via the region semifinals.
6A-12: Warriors falter in four games
For the second time this season, Osceola went four games with host Bradenton Lakewood Ranch. And for the second time, the Warriors lost.
After winning the first game, Osceola couldn’t keep the momentum, losing 27-25, 18-25, 15-25, 18-25. For the second straight game, Emily Barton was solid on offense. But the defense has struggled throughout the tournament.
“We need to tighten up our back row,” Warriors coach Ryan Kramer said. “We slipped up a little bit, but it's something we can get fixed.”
5A-12: Falcons survive in five
Host Dunedin defeated Lakewood 17-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-16, 15-8. The Falcons overcame a two-game deficit to win their first district championship in 22 years. The Spartans were led by 16 kills from Leigh Buttner, 11 blocks by Treniece Green and 44 assists by Kim McEntegart.
3A-9: Marauders wrap up crown
Clearwater Central Catholic defeated Calvary Christian 27-25, 19-25, 25-15, 25-15. The Marauders started slowly but finished strong. Shea Hamilton led CCC with 12 kills. Christy Moore added nine kills and five blocks, Casey Moore had 38 assists and Rachel Moore had 30 digs.
2A-9: Crusaders come up short
After splitting with top-seeded Sarasota Christian, Canterbury struggled to stay in the championship match, losing 25-17, 25-23, 25-20. Lacy Scherer played well for the Crusaders on offense.
“We had our moments, but we weren’t at our best all the time,” Canterbury coach Kendrea Meyer-Penrose said. “We were very inconsistent. We just weren’t ourselves.”
Staff writer Bob Putnam and correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.