PALM HARBOR — East Lake’s senior class has accomplished quite a bit in 3 1/2 seasons.
The Eagles’ seniors have made four straight postseason appearances. They’ve been a part of two district championship teams and one region title-winning squad.
Last season, the Eagles reached the pinnacle of volleyball after capturing the Class 5A state title. Still, East Lake’s senior class had never beaten local rival Palm Harbor University on the Hurricanes’ homecourt.
That is, until Tuesday night.
Historically, the East Lake-PHU match has gone to five games, but Tuesday the Eagles made quick work of the Hurricanes in a 25-13, 25-17, 25-16 victory.
“We lost in five in this gym three years in a row,” East Lake senior Jackie Wegner said. “We really wanted this one.”
Wegner was part of a diverse East Lake attack. Wegner had 10 kills, Brittnay Estes had a team-high 14 kills, Brianna McComeskey had nine and Julia Brunner and Rachel Reed added five more kills each.
“We got points from everybody,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said.
East Lake (8-1) held a 16-12 lead in the first game before running off seven straight points.
“I think we broke (PHU’s) spirit a little bit by winning that first game,” Mike Estes said.
Ahead 19-17 in the second game, East Lake reeled off six points in a row, punctuated by a blistering kill from Estes.
“Our consistency tonight was huge,” Mike Estes said. “We made very few hitting errors. I think that was the key.”
Tied at 8 in Game 3, East Lake won 10 of the next 11 points. PHU (5-4) made a last-ditch run with five straight points to pull to within four, but Jessica Steidl served two aces, Estes had two kills and Reed had one more to put an exclamation point on a dominating team performance.
“We were all really loose,” Wegner said. “Usually we’re pretty nervous for these games, but we got over those nerves pretty quickly.”
The Hurricanes were led by Sammy Eichelberger, who had nine kills and two blocks, and Logan Miller, who had eight kills and a block. Lee Nielsen added seven kills and three blocks for PHU.