EAST LAKE — With a regular-season district title behind it and the district tournament still to come, it would have been easy for East Lake to look past Wednesday's PCAC championship. After all, the Eagles have their sights set on a state title, not a county title.
But East Lake was plenty focused on its homecourt, sweeping Lakewood in a semifinal then beating Palm Harbor U. 25-16, 23-25, 25-12, 25-12. It is East Lake's second straight PCAC title and third time this season it has defeated PHU.
"We started off strong. Then we got a little complacent," East Lake coach Mike Estes said. "Once we're up by a few points, we can't just be satisfied. If we're up eight, we need to make it nine. If we're up nine, we need to make it 10."
The Eagles (15-1) led Game 1 5-4 before going on a 12-2 run. Game 2 had seven ties and eight lead changes. With the score 23-23, Sammy Eichelberger had a kill and unreturned serve for PHU (18-6) to tie the match at 1.
That's when Estes had some words for his team.
"You could call it a chat," he said. "I just told them to check who they are. I told them we're better than this and there is no reason to play the way we did. We need to get our serves in. We get our serves in, and they can't stop us."
And in the next two games, PHU couldn't stop the Eagles. In both, East Lake jumped out to an early lead and didn't look back. PHU coach Tara Kuk said she knew that was a bad sign.
"We just started the third game the way we started the first game, really flat," said Kuk, whose team played its 10th match in eight days. "Against this good of a team, if they get two or three runs per rotation, you're going to have a hard time coming back. In the second game, our service was better and we didn't have to play catch-up. If you have to play catch-up against a team like that, it's really hard to do."
East Lake was led by Briana Nichols and Brittnay Estes, who had 16 kills each. Setter Rachel Reed had 35 assists.
East Lake and PHU likely will meet again in next week's Class 8A, District 8 tournament. Kuk knows if that happens, the Hurricanes will have to be near perfect to win.
"(East Lake's) ball control is so good, and (Reed) is a great setter," Kuk said. "No one has to be a superstar on that team for them to win. Everyone does what they need to do for overall success."