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Top teams coast in elite tournament

The top three teams in Florida rolled to expected victories Friday on the opening day of pool play in the 10th annual Tampa Bay Invitational volleyball Tournament.

Undefeated Stuart-Martin County, ranked No. 1 in Florida's Class 5A and the highest-ranked Florida team at No. 9 in this week's Mizuno-USA Today national poll, whipped Tarpon Springs 15-0, 15-13 and Fort Myers 15-5, 15-4. Local entries Berkeley Prep and Tampa Prep, first and second in Class 3A and 11th and 13th in the nation respectively, also cruised to easy victories in the 16-team tournament that many coaches said exceeds the competition at state tournaments.

"This is the state tournament, no question about it," said Martin County coach Marty Bielicki, "a state tournament for all divisions at once. The teams that come to this tournament take their volleyball very seriously and most of them should be at the state tournament."

Martin County, which has beaten Berkeley and Tampa Prep this season, upped its record to 28-0.

Tampa Prep, the tournament host, crushed Academy of the Holy Names 15-2, 15-4, then disposed of Chamberlain 15-4, 15-7 to improve to 25-3. Terrapins outside hitter Sarah Peifer had nine kills against the Academy and 15 against Chamberlain, more than twice the Chiefs' team total of seven.

"We looked pretty bad out there," said Chiefs coach Gregg Latter, whose team also fell to Fort Lauderdale-Cardinal Gibbons 15-11, 15-3. "But we're here to try to get better and get ready for the district tournament next week and hopefully we'll improve by tomorrow."

Berkeley (24-3) coasted past Shorecrest 15-1, 15-13 and Middleburg 15-3, 15-7 despite using its second string in both second games.

Cardinal Gibbons (27-1), the No. 2 team in Class 4A, won both of its matches against a pair of Tampa schools, warming up with a 15-11, 13-15, 15-10 victory over Academy of the Holy Names, the No. 6 school in 3A, then gaining momentum for the triumph over Chamberlain, No. 5 in 6A.

The field has been divided into four pools. Each team will play three games against teams in its pool by noon today before the top two teams in each pool are seeded in the championship bracket and the others square off in a consolation bracket.