ST. PETERSBURG — Never has one game changed the complexion of a match quite like the third game of Northside Christian's 22-25, 24-26, 25-8, 25-18, 15-10 region final loss to Tampa Prep.
Northside was rolling after having recovered from a brief lapse late in Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.
But in Game 3, Northside faltered. Badly.
"It was pretty sound," Northside coach Holly Filer said. "Tampa Prep made a statement for sure. We had no answers."
Tampa Prep (15-13) opened a 5-0 advantage before Northside (23-7) could muster a point. The Terrapins continued pouring it on, going ahead 10-1, then 12-2.
The lead hit 17-3. With each point Tampa Prep piled on, a piece of the Mustangs' confidence chipped away.
By the end of the 25-8 rout, Tampa Prep had grabbed complete control of the match.
"That third game, that was key," Filer said. "Tampa Prep found it. Their girls came together. I feel like in the third game they wanted it more."
Tampa Prep led wire-to-wire in Game 4. In the final game, the Terrapins went up 7-3 and didn't let Northside come within three.
"We just had too many errors," Filer said. "Those are things you can't recover from, especially when you have blockers and hitters like Tampa Prep does. … They don't mess around."
Northside's Callie Hasko had 12 kills in the first two games. Her shot down the line closed out the opening game.
"Some people could say, 'You won the first two, did your girls give up?' " Filer said. "I really don't feel like they gave up. They kept swinging, we just didn't have enough answers."