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TAMPA — After having taken its lumps against larger schools during the first three weeks of the season, Tampa Prep entered district play Tuesday night at home against rival Indian Rocks Christian.
But in their first set against the Golden Eagles, the Terrapins — a Class 2A state finalist last season — couldn’t get the ball past IRC’s wall of blockers.
Despite dropping its first set to IRC, Tampa Prep rallied to win its district opener in four sets, 17-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-18.
The key was working around those blocks; IRC had six in the first set, and five for the rest of the match.
For Tampa Prep (3-6), it was its 10 straight win against Class 2A-10 district rival Indian Rocks Christian (8-2).
“It’s just like in baseball where they say hit them where they’re not,” Tampa Prep coach Mike Flynn said. “That’s what we started to do.
“I think we’ve worked really hard as a team in practices in matches, and I’m happy for them,” he added. “We’ve lost some close games and some close sets. I’m happy to see them win some close sets. It shows that the hard work pays off.”
Senior outside hitter Gabby Fernandez led Tampa Prep with 18 kills and 27 digs. Senior outside hitter Ericka McGriff added 13 kills and sophomore middle hitter Katie Krueger had seven kills and nine blocks.
“That’s not acceptable,” IRC coach Mark Foster said of his team’s inability to block after the first set. “When the front line doesn’t do its job blocking, there’s nothing we can do in the back row. Tampa Prep moves the ball around real well. They have great hitters and great blockers.”
Senior outside hitter Marisa Moralobo led the Eagles with 10 kills and 24 digs, while junior middle hitter Madi Loebel added nine kills and six blocks.
Tampa Prep’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. This weekend the Terps play in the annual Berkeley Premier tournament. Their first matches are against 5A state power Venice, Louisville (Ky.) Mercy — ESPNRise’s No. 22 team in the nation, and Huntsville (Ala.) — the 34th-ranked team in the nation.
“We’re not a BCS team,” Flynn said. “I don’t care. We have to prepare between the schedule and training for playing to play our best volleyball in November. We don’t care about following the BCS rankings. We just have to make sure that we get the job done when it counts.”