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Tampa Prep stakes claim as best in state

On a day of upsets, the hosts refused to be upstaged.

Tampa Prep rolled through the 10th Annual Tampa Bay Invitational Volleyball Tournament Saturday, winning four matches, all in the minimum two games, including a convincing 15-6, 15-13 victory over previously undefeated Stuart Martin County in the tournament championship.

"(Tampa Prep) has improved since we beat them earlier this year," said Martin County coach Martin Bielicki, whose team's 66-match regular-season winning streak came to an end.

"We made too many errors and that put us out. But we were 33-0 last year until we lost to Fort Myers (in the state tournament) and that taught us a lesson that we need to play the best competition. That's why we came to this tournament. But we struggled here, going three games several times and that hurt us physically in the final. This loss helps us prepare for the rest of the season. We're not invincible."

The 16-team field included 14 teams ranked in the state polls, including Martin County (31-1), No. 1 in Class 5A and No. 9 in the USA Today ranking.

Tampa Prep's Sarah Peifer had 12 kills in the title match and Aimee Boulet added nine kills. Both players also excelled _ 14 kills for Peifer and eight for Boulet _ in a championship semifinal against crosstown and Class 3A rival Berkeley Prep, a 15-4, 15-12 win.

Berkeley (25-5) is ranked No. 1 in 3A this week and 11th nationally, but the Terrapins (29-3, second in 3A and 13th nationally) did their best to overtake the Buccaneers.

"The rivalry between us and Berkeley makes you play better," Boulet said. "Because of our experience and knowledge we were able to beat them."

Tampa Prep has won two of three meetings with Berkeley this season. The teams should meet Thursday in a 3A-District 6 semifinal at 6:30 p.m. at the Academy of the Holy Names.

The Academy (17-12) lost all four of its matches in the tournament, but it went home better for the experience.

"It was the right thing to play here," said Academy coach Margo Hunt, whose team is ranked sixth in 3A. "We didn't win a match, but we took two of the best teams in the state (Cardinal Gibbons and Chamberlain) to three games and it can only help us get ready for such a tough district."

Chamberlain defeated the Jaguars twice Saturday. The Chiefs (15-9) also beat Shorecrest to advance to the consolation bracket final. But with the squad depleted to six players due to Saturday night's Homecoming dance, the Chiefs fell to Middleburg 16-14, 15-12.

Shorecrest (22-8) lost all three of its matches in pool play and was seeded last in the consolation bracket, then whipped Clearwater Central Catholic (18-8), the consolation bracket's top seed, 15-11, 15-13, before losing to Chamberlain.

Parkland Stoneman Douglas pulled off one of the tournament's biggest upsets, defeating Berkeley 15-12, 4-15, 15-12 to win its pool, but in a rematch, the Bucs gained control for a 15-12, 15-3 win. St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale was seeded second in the championship bracket after three two-game wins in pool play, but the Raiders faltered in the first round of the championship bracket, falling to Boca Raton Spanish River 16-14, 15-10.

Tampa Bay Invitational

Championship match results from the annual Tampa Bay Invitational:

1994 Tampa Prep d. Martin Co.

1993 Tampa Prep d. Berkeley Prep

1992 Berkeley Prep d. Tampa Prep

1991 Berkeley Prep d. F.L. Card. Gibbons

1990 Berkeley Prep d. Lake Worth Chr.

1989 Berkeley Prep d. Miami Sunset

1988 Berkeley Prep d. Estero

1987 Miami Sunset d. Berkeley Prep

1986 Plant d. Berkeley Prep

1985 Tampa Prep d. Tall. Maclay