ST. PETERSBURG — East Lake played exceptional volleyball Saturday, according to coach Terry Small, whose team reached the title match at the Mustang Invitational hosted by Northside Christian. If only the Eagles could take a mulligan for the first two games of the gold division final, a 25-13, 25-11, 25-20 loss to Class A power Warner Christian.
East Lake (14-6) looked listless for the first two games. And when Warner Christian built a 19-7 lead in Game 3, it appeared the visitors from South Daytona would sweep East Lake out of the gym.
That, however, is when East Lake picked up its energy level and reeled off nine straight points. Andria Tagarelli made several key plays, including serving three aces in a row.
"Our focus was much better in that third game, and we started to loosen up a little bit," Small said. "Andria gave us a spark with her serving. That was huge. It kind of gave us some hope."
Warner Christian (19-1), though, went back to its bread-and-butter, setting hitters Sarah Garner and tournament MVP Jordan Holcomb to quell the East Lake rally.
"They're such an athletic team," Small said. "It's like were shocked early that we couldn't do anything to hurt them."
East Lake, Northside and Lake Worth Christian all finished Pool A play with 3-1 records. The Eagles advanced to the gold division title game thanks to its 11-4 game record in its four pool matches, slightly better than Northside's 10-5 mark. Warner Christian made it to the final with a 4-0 record in Pool B.
In the silver division championship for third place, Northside Christian couldn't overcome Palmer Trinity's size advantage in a 25-19, 25-13, 35-33 loss.
The Mustangs (17-6) had nine chances to put away Game 3 but couldn't convert.
East Lake's Tagarelli and Karly Gilchrist were named to the all-tournament team as were Callie Hasko (Northside), Erica Almerico (Academy of the Holy Names) and Gabby Fernandez (Bayshore Christian).