TARPON SPRINGS — Whenever the score tightened between Tarpon Springs and Osceola on Thursday, whenever the Warriors drew within striking distance, the Spongers had an answer.
Her name was Ashlyn MacGregor.
MacGregor, a 6-foot-1 junior middle hitter, was the answer any time Tarpon Springs needed a point in the Spongers’ 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 victory over Osceola. MacGregor started playing volleyball three years ago but has adapted quickly. On Thursday, she led all players with 21 kills and five blocks.
“It revolves around Ashlyn,” coach Patrick Sneed said. “When she starts thumping balls, the intensity goes through the roof. The team feeds off that.”
Tarpon Springs (4-0) had plenty to be excited about in a resounding win. MacGregor had nine kills and three blocks in the first game to help the Spongers build a 20-11 lead. Osceola (2-3) crawled back within three but a block from MacGregor and another kill gave the Spongers the first game.
“Just feed the rock. Keep giving it to her,” Sneed said about the Spongers’ end-game strategy. “Her arm’s not going to wear out.”
Tarpon Springs led 16-8 in the second game, but again Osceola crept back. At 20-17, MacGregor recorded consecutive kills and added one more at 24-18 to finish off the Warriors.
“I think we have a lot of positives,” MacGregor said about her team. “We lost six seniors from last year, but we’ve been able to fill in the holes really well, actually.”
Game 3 was a runaway. Tarpon Springs established a 15-3 lead and finished the match on one of numerous Osceola serving errors.
“For whatever reason we get mental blocks with serving and we’re giving away too many points,” Osceola coach Ryan Kramer said.
Tarpon Springs got production from a number of players, most notably sophomore outside hitter Kelsi Collins, who engineered the offense with her precise serve-receive and also pumped in eight kills and 10 digs.
“Her older sister (Karli) played last year,” Sneed said. “There’s more blood, sweat and tears from a Collins kid on this floor than anybody else around here. She doesn’t let anything touch the ground.”
The Spongers’ Kelly Lorenz was exceptional serving, registering eight aces.
Katherine Mulroy had nine kills and three blocks to pace Osceola.
“She was probably the one that kept us in it as long as we were,” Kramer said.