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Volleyball tourney gets attention from around the country

Berkeley Prep’s Christina Theofilos dives for a ball at last year’s tournament.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Berkeley Prep’s Christina Theofilos dives for a ball at last year’s tournament.

TAMPA — Tampa Prep volleyball coach Mike Flynn has been fielding e-mails since December — from far-off places like Pennsylvania and Texas — from teams wanting to play in the Tampa Bay Invitational.

As the tournament enters its 24th year, it still is one of the premier high school events in the Southeast because of its deep pool of state contenders.

"It's not only the top eight teams," Flynn said. "What's amazing is that teams eight to 16 always seem to get two or three upsets a year."

And this is just the reason former longtime Tampa Prep volleyball coach Carol Chalu, now the school's athletic director, organized the event — to give teams top-level competition as playoffs loom.

"The event had stayed true to the tradition of including state volleyball powers," Flynn said.

Though Tampa Prep, which has spent the season playing big-school competition, is seeded ninth in the 16-team field and enters the weekend just 8-7, the purpose of the tournament is as poignant as ever.

"When we get to our class, you want to be ready," Flynn said. "We want to be to the point where (being tied) 23-23 doesn't scare us."

>>FAST FACTS

Tampa Bay Invitational

When: Friday-Saturday

Where: University of Tampa Bob Martinez Center

Format: Sixteen teams, including host Tampa Prep, Durant and Berkeley Prep, will compete in pool play Friday (action starts at 3 p.m.), then advance to various brackets (gold for the winners) Saturday. The championship is at 2:45 p.m.

Four teams to watch

Berkeley Prep (15-1): The Buccaneers, whose only loss was to Louisville (Ky.) Mercy in the Berkeley Premier final, are the top-seeded team in the draw.

Timber Creek (16-1): Orlando team is ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and is 6-0 on neutral sites.

Pelham (Ala.) (39-3): Top-ranked team in Alabama's Class 6A has won 22 matches in a row.

St. Paul's (Ala.) (40-6): Two-time defending state champ in Class 5A was 56-6 last season.

Volleyball tourney gets attention from around the country 10/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:15pm]
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