CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic senior middle hitter Morgan O'Brien can remember some pretty spectacular victories during her four-year high school career.
But Tuesday's win over Palm Harbor University? That one just might rank at the top.
Buoyed by winning the Elite Division at the OVA High School Showcase over the weekend in Orlando, CCC seized control early against PHU, building a two-games-to-none lead. PHU rallied to force Game 5, but the Marauders weathered the storm and held on 25-20, 25-20, 20-25, 18-25, 15-6 for one of the most notable wins in program history.
"Definitely the biggest win of the season so far," said O'Brien, who led CCC with 13 kills and four blocks. "This is one of our biggest games of the season, because even though it's not a district game, we play club with all those girls and we knew it was going to be a close match no matter what."
The Marauders (9-0) led 16-12 in the first game then won the next four points, punctuated by a block from Megan Miller (27 digs, 21 assists), to take a commanding lead.
Game 2 saw both teams make long runs. The Hurricanes led 14-12, but the Marauders won five straight points to move back in front for good.
"We thought we had control of it," CCC coach Stephen Shepherd said.
PHU (2-3) started Game 3 with a renewed focus on defense. With the score 15 all, the Hurricanes picked up four of the next five points. PHU led start to finish in Game 4 to even the score.
"They picked up all the 50/50 balls in Games 3 and 4," Shepherd said. "I thought that was the difference in the match, whichever team picked up the most 50/50 balls, played the best defense and passed the best would win."
In Game 5, that was CCC. Ahead 6-5, CCC reeled off eight straight points, with Kalyn Baird (12 kills, three blocks) finishing three of them, to win.
Lauren Watson paced PHU with 16 kills, and Lee Nielsen added 12. Logan Miller had nine kills and eight blocks.
Macayla Chianco had seven kills and Katie Moore had nine blocks for the Marauders.