Three teams _ Clearwater, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs _ have dominated public-school volleyball in Pinellas this fall. Clearwater finished the regular season 25-2 and won the Pinellas County Athletic Conference title. Tarpon Springs was 20-2, and Dunedin's only losses came to the Tornadoes and Spongers.
Unfortunately for the three powers, those records are irrelevant now. District tournaments are here, so forget about how good you were.
"This has been our Number 1 priority, and we're real upbeat," Spongers coach Carol Kidman, whose team advanced to the Class 3A semifinals last season, said of post-season play. "But the toughest thing to do is to beat a team for the third time. If we don't play well, we'll get beat.
"Each of the teams starts off with a clean slate."
Defending Class 3A, District 11 champion Tarpon Springs does not play until Thursday, at Bradenton Bayshore High School. The Class A, District 10 tournament, at Keswick Christian, already has started. The championship match is Friday night at 7:30.
Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Catholic will play at Palmetto in the Class 2A, District 11 tournament, which starts Wednesday. The final is Friday at 6 p.m.
Clearwater (25-2) starts defense of its Class 4A, District 7 crown today at Seminole. At Sarasota Riverview, Dixie Hollins and Northeast will compete in Class 4A, District 8.
The most interesting tournament could be 3A-11. Although Tarpon appears to be the favorite, Gibbs (18-7), East Lake (9-13) and Boca Ciega (7-8) are capable teams.
"We stand very strong," Gibbs coach Randle Bose said. "The second seed is nothing to sniff at. There are three tiers in our district, and Tarpon is in its own tier."
The main competition for Clearwater is Dunedin and host Seminole. The Falcons and Warhawks pushed Clearwater to three games three times during the regular season, though the Tornadoes went 3-0 in those matches.
"We think the teams in our district are very, very tough," said Anne Balderson, coach of defending district and Region IV champion Clearwater. "We've got to be able to play well against them. At tournament time, people seem to rise to the occasion."
Though her squad lost to Tarpon Springs and Clearwater late in the season, Falcons coach Cindy Robinson is optimistic.
"There's lots of pressure on them right now," Robinson said of the favored Tornadoes. "In the matches we lost, it boiled down to serving. We've worked on serving, and I know we're ready to play."