Class 2a Determined Northside headed back to finals
ST. PETERSBURG — It stuck with Northside Christian all offseason.
It gave the Mustangs a killer attitude this season.
And Tuesday against Fort Myers Canterbury it helped propel the Mustangs to their 14th shutout victory with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-22 win, sending them to the region finals for the second consecutive season.
"It" was the heartbreaking loss to Tampa Prep last year in the region finals in which the Mustangs blew a 2-0 lead, failing to close out the Terrapins in a 3-2 defeat.
"That loss was big for us," said senior middle hitter Kayla Walton, who missed the Tampa Prep match last year after suffering a season-ending knee injury mid-season. "It made us work harder during club (season), it made us a closer team, it made us focused on not letting teams back into (matches).
"We never really outright talked about (the loss), but it's been in the back of our head all season and it's been a big part to us going for (state finals)."
The USF-bound Walton was instrumental in overcoming Canterbury (20-5) with a team-high 21 kills, matching Cougars outside hitter Christina Carracino.
Carracino helped the Cougars take a 5-3 lead in the first set with five consecutive kills. Walton followed with three kills over the next four points to even the score. And after a kill by middle hitter Jennica Mullins (seven kills), the Mustangs never looked back in the set.
Northside trailed early in the second set, but fueled by some ferocious hits by the 6-foot-3 Walton midway through the game, the Mustangs cruised to a 25-21 win.
In the third set, the Mustangs (20-9) trailed 10-7 before evening the score at 13, then trailed 22-20 before winning the last five points behind an unforced error by Canterbury, two kills by Walton and two aces by Katie Traina, who finished with four aces.
Kayla Turner led the Mustangs with 33 assists and added 11 digs while Tiffany Boyer led Northside with 14 digs.
Chris Girandola, Times correspondent