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Northside's powerful duo helps wrap up back-to-back Bay Conference titles

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA

Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — Their nickname is the "twin towers," and in Northside Christian's Bay Conference championship at Bayshore Christian on Thursday night Mustangs outside hitter Kayla Walton and middle hitter Jennica Mullins stood above the rest.

Northside's 6-foot-2 duo led the Mustangs to the first back-to-back Bay Conference titles in school history with a straight-set victory over the Faith Warriors, 25-23, 25-19, 25-14.

Pairing Walton and Mullins on the front row was a recipe for success. When Walton wasn't hitting cross-court winners, Mullins was swatting short sets into the back row. Walton led the Mustangs with 18 kills, while Mullins added 15 kills and seven blocks.

"We try to stay in that rotation as long as possible," Northside coach Kelly Jackson said with a laugh. "When they're on, they're on, so we try to feed them the ball as much as possible. We're peaking at the right time."

Northside took the momentum by winning a back-and-forth Game 1, scoring the final two points and breaking a 23-all tie. The Mustangs (15-8) built off that, pulling away with a late 7-3 rally to take Game 2, then ran out to a 16-6 lead in the final game.

"We wanted to come in strong and win in three," said Walton, one of the Mustangs' three senior starters.

Libero Tiffany Boyer added 10 digs and setter Kayla Turner had 30 assists for the Mustangs.

For Bayshore Christian (12-10), coach Melanie Humenansky was happy to see her starting lineup back together after a rash of injuries and illness.

Particularly damaging was losing setter Amanda Mirabella for five matches with an ankle injury. With just eight players and Mirabella the only setter, it forced Humenansky to use four rotations — and four setters — in Mirabella's absence.

"The first two games were probably the best we've played in the past few games," Humenansky said. "Yes, it was the Bay Conference championship, but we have nothing to win or lose. Playing tougher competition does nothing but prepare us for districts next week, and that's what I'm looking forward to."

Outside hitter Gabby Fernandez led Bayshore with 17 kills and 11 digs. Ashley Rios also had 11 digs and Mirabella tallied 19 assists.

Northside's powerful duo helps wrap up back-to-back Bay Conference titles 10/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 11:52pm]
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