TAMPA — Clearwater Central Catholic toppled Plant in Tampa Bay Invitational pool play Friday, winning two of three games thanks to the powerful finishing of Kalyn Baird.
The senior outside hitter led Pinellas County in kills last season and is on pace to do so again. Baird finished the match at the University of Tampa with 16 kills, most of which came in the second and third games.
“We lean on (Baird) and I have to applaud her because she is coming through for us in a big way this year just like she did last season,” CCC coach Stephen Shepherd said. “She’s our go-to girl and today she was amazing.”
Shepherd was delighted by his team’s performance against the Panthers after beating Plant’s opponent in last year’s state championship, Orlando Boone, earlier in the day.
“I thought if we hadn’t committed so many errors in the first game we’d have won in two games,” Shepherd said. “Once we cleaned it up I thought we were very efficient. To beat the two teams that played for a state title last year says a lot about where we are.”
Plant took the first game 25-20 as senior Kaitlyn Dooley finished off a solid game with the winning block.
The Panthers seemed to have the upper hand, but after a 4-4 start to Game 2, the Marauders took the lead and never relinquished it, winning 25-21. The deciding game was decided by a score of 16-8 with Baird leading the way.
Marauders senior Megan Miller contributed 16 assists while junior Rachel Miller finished with 19 digs.
Plant coach Amy Rumore was left feeling frustrated as her team was visibly distraught during its unraveling.
“It’s tough to stay positive when we play like that,” Rumore said. “We got sloppy with our blocks and we became predictable as the match went on. I feel like we were setting the ball for the outside hitter too often and we weren’t strong enough in the middle.”