ST. PETERSBURG — Countryside doesn’t have the plethora of attacking options it has had in years past.
The Cougars, however, won’t need them if they continue serving like they did Wednesday night at Northeast.
Countryside aced Northeast 17 times, and pinpoint serving kept the Vikings’ offense from getting off the ground in a convincing 25-12, 25-17, 25-17 victory.
“I have six in the rotation that can all serve, plus one off the bench,” Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly said. “That’s what our strength is going to be this year.”
Hannah Barlow, a sophomore, was the first to give Northeast fits. With Countryside trailing 5-1 in Game 1, Barlow reeled off 16 straight points on her serve to put the Cougars firmly in control.
“Our serve-receive was horrific,” Northeast coach Brian Nowokunski said. “Overall, their serving was the difference in the match.”
Northeast (0-2) led 14-7 in Game 2, but the Cougars again clawed back. Countryside benefited from an eight-point run behind the serving of Ashley Albers to turn a 16-13 deficit into a 21-16 advantage. Barlow served one of her five aces to cap Countryside’s Game 2 rally.
Countryside (3-0) led wire-to-wire in Game 3, opening a nine-point lead at 17-8 and finishing the Vikings with three straight aces from senior middle hitter Hannah Glover.
“That felt good,” Glover said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to start off this year because we lost a lot of really good players, but we’ve actually come out really strong.”
The Cougars have defeated district foes Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and Northeast to start the season undefeated.
Northeast, winner of two straight district titles entering the 2011 season, has lost twice after matches against the Cougars and Clearwater, two of Pinellas County’s best.
“It’s humbling,” Nowokunski said. “But our girls need to know that’s where they need to be.”
Glover was solid all around for Countryside, leading the Cougars in kills (14) and blocks (two) while contributing four aces. Kylee Mooney added eight kills and Jenna Dykstra had six.
Northeast had two kills each from Brittany Taksas, Kaycee Anderson and Ina Crnalic. Alexis Smith served three aces for the Vikings.