EAST LAKE — Upset-minded Tarpon Springs brought its undefeated record into crosstown rival East Lake’s gym Wednesday, hopeful that a victory over the Eagles in the opening match of the Pinellas County Athletic Conference Challenge would announce its arrival among the elite of Pinellas County.
East Lake, though, wasn’t feeling quite so charitable.
Shaking off a sluggish start, East Lake, the defending Class 5A state champ, befuddled Tarpon Springs, taking the Spongers out of their game with perfectly-placed passes and an offensive tempo Tarpon Springs has yet to see this season.
The result? A 25-15, 25-14, 25-7 victory that left the Spongers shaking their heads and searching for answers.
“That’s what East Lake’s really good about is keeping the other team out of its system,” Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed said. “When you can’t get a good pass on serve-receive, nothing’s going to work out. Up to this point in the season, our serve-receive has been really, really good, so we’ve been really effective with all our hitters.”
With an 11-9 lead in the opening game, East Lake (5-1) won seven of the next eight points. Brittnay Estes recorded five of her game-high 12 kills and Mary Gillis served three aces for the Eagles in Game 1.
“Tonight we looked smooth,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said.
In the second game, another early East Lake run did in the Spongers (10-1). Ahead 5-3, the Eagles again took seven out of eight points to establish an insurmountable lead.
Game 3 was a nightmare for Tarpon Springs with East Lake winning 23 of the first 27 points.
“Our setting was great tonight,” Mike Estes said. “Our timing was good, all our hitters had good timing. It looked like we got every ball at the net. It seemed like we won most every joust.”
Illustrating East Lake’s superior depth, the Eagles had four players — Estes (12), Jackie Wegner (nine), Julia Brunner (eight) and Brianna McComeskey (five) — with more than five kills. Gillis added three kills and four blocks and Jessica Steidl had four aces.
Tarpon Springs was led by Ashlyn MacGregor, who had nine kills, four blocks and an ace. Maria Suarez was the Spongers’ second-leading attacker with four kills.
“That’s why they’re state champs, the depth they have,” Sneed said. “They have people that can come off the bench, and they don’t miss a beat.”