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TARPON SPRINGS — Tarpon Springs has dominated the new Class 6A, District 10 standings this season and found itself in unfamiliar territory: Having to live up to the hype of being the overwhelming favorite.
With underdog Sunlake playing for nothing to lose and everything to gain Wednesday, the Spongers played Game 1 of the district semifinals tight and sloppy before sweeping the Seahawks 25-16, 25-13, 25-7.
“We’ve never been in a district semifinal game in my seven years here,” Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Snead said. “I was actually a little nervous behind it all.
“It’s a new situation for us (being the favorites). We started a little slow, a little sluggish and then after that they played volleyball like they know they can.”
Clinging to a 20-15 lead, the Spongers finally put it together, going on a 5-1 run with Ashlyn MacGregor earning the final kill to win Game 1. Tarpon reached the 6A regional playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“(Sunlake) was setting us up to block more so we had to find different ways to score and mix it up a little bit,” MacGregor said, who had 10 of her team-leading 21 kills during Game 2. “This is the first time I’ve played for a district (title) and the team is really excited.”
Tarpon Springs (21-3, 9-0) scored 12 straight points against Sunlake (8-18, 2-7) to end Game 3.
In the early match, Mitchell defeated River Ridge 25-20, 25-14, 25-21 to earn its second straight regional appearance.
Jessika Hester finished with 11 digs and led Mitchell (16-8, 6-3) with 13 kills over River Ridge (16-10, 5-4).
7A-10: Seminole, Clearwater challenged but then regroup
SEMINOLE — The top two teams advanced to tonight’s Class 7A, District 10 tournament final, but it wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
Seminole lost the first game in its semifinal against Countryside 25-17 before storming back to win 27-25, 25-21, 25-17.
The Warhawks (13-9) will play top seed Clearwater, which swept St. Petersburg 25-23, 25-21, 25-17 in three tight games.
In the opening game, the Cougars (10-14) burst out to an 11-2 lead. The spread got to as big as 11 points thanks to the hitting of Jenna Dykstra, Haley McKinney and Kylee Mooney. Seminole tried to mount a comeback late, but Mooney ended the game with a kill.
Seminole took charge in the second game by taking an 11-3 lead. Countryside slowly chipped away eventually tied it at 24. The lead changed twice before Seminole scored the final two points on a Tori Ligrani spike and a Ligrani serve that was returned into the net.
The Warhawks took that momentum into the final two games. Middle hitters Amber Peone, Sam Nowinski and Sam Schlesman contributed for Seminole.
“I always think we can win and I always try to instill that into the team,” Seminole coach Dexter Rogers said. “The first game we were just nervous. In the last three games we played with much more confidence.”
Clearwater was confident against St. Petersburg, but the pesky Green Devils would never go away. Whenever Clearwater looked like it might pull away, St. Petersburg (11-12) managed to hang around. In the first game, the Tornadoes scored the first five points. But after that there were eight ties before Clearwater went on a 4-2 run to close out the game.
The Tornadoes were in even more trouble in the second game, trailing 20-14. But they managed to tie the game at 21 then scored the final four points on kills from Allie Russell and Nikki O’Rourke. The third game was much of the same, with the game tied at 16 before Clearwater (19-8) went on a 9-1 run. Sarah Case served most of the points during the run and O’Rourke was busy smashing spikes.
“St. Pete is very well coached and they really had the fundamentals down,” Clearwater coach Kara Betourne said. “We’ve been in situations like this before and I think it shows our character to be able to come back. We’re going to have to play even better against Seminole.”
Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.