PALM HARBOR — The Palm Harbor University team that took the court Tuesday night against St. Petersburg bore little resemblance to the team that faced the Green Devils three weeks ago. In that match, the Green Devils beat the Hurricanes in five dramatic games.
The rematch had little drama as PHU swept its 8A-8 rival 25-11, 25-17, 25-19.
“The way we played together as a team was much different than the way we played them earlier,” PHU coach Tara Kuk said. “We’ve grown a tremendous amount since then.”
It took a few points for the Hurricanes (10-2) to settle down. Trailing 3-1 in the first game, PHU went on a 10-1 run to jump out to an 11-4 lead. Paced by kills from Naomi Mack, Jazmine Barker and Brooke Zelinsky, the Hurricanes closed out the first game.
PHU never trailed in the second game, taking an early 5-2 lead. The Hurricanes didn’t allow more than two straight points the rest of the game. The game ended with three straight Hurricane points, including a kill and block by Zelinsky.
With their backs to the wall, the Green Devils (12-6) tried to mount a comeback. Thanks to some PHU errors and a kill by Kaylan Marckese, St. Petersburg closed the gap to 8-7.
But PHU continued to keep balls alive and increased its lead to 17-11. The Green Devils got as close as 17-14.
“We knew the last time we played them we didn’t play at our highest level,” said Mack, who finished with 11 kills. “We had to come back swinging, especially on our homecourt.”
Both teams were playing without a contributor. St. Petersburg’s Carly Danner was out due to illness, and PHU’s Julia Angelo injured her foot during warmups.
St. Petersburg coach Alex Sevillano said PHU was going to be hard to beat no matter what.
“I think they’ve figured things out,” Sevillano said. “They are very fast and just outhustled us.”
Kuk said her team showed its potential.
“Tonight, from the start of the game to the end of the game, hands down this is the best performance we’ve given,” Kuk said.