CLEARWATER— Tied at one game apiece and 23-all in Game 3, Clearwater Central Catholic's match against Northside Christian was available for either team to grab hold of.
Northside, though, made critical plays when it counted in Game 3 on Tuesday then fended off the Marauders for a narrow 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19 victory.
"We're a team that's all about momentum," said Northside's Tiffany Boyer, who had a team-high 25 digs. "When we put all of our communication together, then there's no beating us."
At 23-all in Game 3, Northside took a 24-23 lead on a CCC attack error, then the Mustangs' Jennica Mullins used all 6 foot 2 inches of her frame to block a CCC attack into the open court to give Northside a two-games-to-one advantage.
"We've just been trying to put together all of our talent," Boyer said. "We're as good if not better than last year; we just haven't fully put it together yet."
Northside (10-4) appeared to be in command in Game 1, jumping out to an 18-7 lead. CCC, however, chipped away, closing to 22-21 before Northside won the next four points. CCC led nearly wire-to-wire in Game 2 to tie the match.
"We kind of let down a little; we do that a lot," said Mullins, who had 15 kills and two aces. "If we have a big lead, we kind of ease off instead of putting teams away."
CCC (6-5) had opportunities to take control but poor serving ultimately did in the Marauders.
"I always tell the girls, it doesn't matter what level of volleyball you play, you win every match with passing and serving," CCC coach Andrew Wilson said. "Fifteen missed serves was not going to do it tonight."
Another factor working against the Marauders: senior Mary Michael Toups, who leads the team in kills, missed the Northside match and is out for the next two weeks and possibly longer with mono.
"That's a lot of offense to replace and a lot of leadership," Wilson said. "It definitely changed us up."