SEMINOLE — The opportunity was there for Osceola, at least momentarily, to unseat perennial power Palm Harbor University in conference pool play and help shift the balance of power from the north part of the county to the south.
In the first game of Wednesday's match, the Warriors held a 24-22 lead, one point from taking control early. But the lead evaporated as the Hurricanes reeled off four straight points to win, 26-24.
With the chance to seize momentum wiped away, Osceola watched as PHU won the next two games, 25-15 and 25-20, to sweep.
"We're young and still growing as a team," Warriors coach Ryan Kramer said. "I think losing that late lead got in their head a little bit and sucked the air out of them. If we were allowed to call a 20-minute timeout to let them take a deep breath and relax, I think we would have been okay."
Osceola (5-4) built a lead in the first game thanks to libero Katie Newman, who kept balls in play that otherwise would have gone for points.
"That was Katie's best match of the year," Kramer said. "She kept us in the game early."
The Hurricanes (9-2) rallied in the first game with solid serves and the ability to direct shots away from Newman.
"To be honest, I thought we were lucky to pull out the first game," PHU coach Tara Kuk said. "We really didn't play well most of the match, which was disappointing, especially after the way we played the night before."
The Hurricanes were coming off perhaps their biggest win of the season, a five-game victory over district rival Bradenton Manatee that put PHU in position to still claim the top seed.
If there was a letdown, it was erased after pulling through the first game Wednesday.
PHU bore down to take the next two games. The only suspense came in the third when the Hurricanes scored four of the final five points to pull away in what was a tight game.
PHU turned things around by dominating at the net. Naomi Mack had 13 kills and Jazmine Barker had 11 to lead the Hurricanes' attack.
"In the last two games we played better defensively, and we were strong at the net," Kuk said. "But overall, I know we can play way better than that."