LAND O’LAKES — Even at less than 100 percent, Bishop McLaughlin’s Alyssa Mathis is still capable of dominating the North Suncoast.
The junior hitter proved that Tuesday night, notching a match-high 22 kills and six blocks to help her Hurricanes knock off Sunlake, 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20.
“Still, she’s a woman amongst girls out there,” Bishop coach Douglas Chinchar said.
Mathis, a 6-foot San Diego State commit and one of Tampa Bay’s top talents, has been hobbled by a strained calf but still played well for the Hurricanes (8-1) in a showdown against the upstart Seahawks (5-3), who have been one of Pasco County’s biggest surprises.
Mathis had four kills in the first game to help Bishop pull ahead.
“She crushes the thing — flat-out crushes it,” Chinchar said. “We just can’t set that yet. … The kids are working hard. It’s just not there yet.”
Sunlake fought back, behind its own Division I prospect, setter Malika Saffore, and strong performances by Sarah Sprague (12 kills) and Maeghan O’Fray (11 kills).
The Seahawks dropped the second but rallied in the third, jumping out to a 24-18 lead before two of Aileen Hnatiuk’s 13 kills capped the Hurricanes’ 5-0 run.
A spike by Sunlake’s Kelsey Riquelme forced a fourth game — and caused Bishop to keep digging.
“We’re a very average 8-1 team,” Chinchar said. “We’re getting by because we have a few kids who can make plays when it counts.”
Tuesday night, those kids were Mathis, Hnatiuk and junior Casey McColl.
Mathis had three kills and two blocks in a six-point span to turn a 15-12 deficit into a 17-15 lead in the fourth. Hnatiuk followed with a kill and an ace, and an ace and clutch serves from McColl helped the Hurricanes pull away for good — and give Chinchar a little more confidence about his growing program that expects to compete in Class 3A, District 7.
“It’s coming around,” Chinchar said. “It’s slower than I wanted it to, but you know us. We make runs always at the end of the year. We keep on going, going, going.”