Clearwater, the top-seed in the Class 5A, District 7 tournament, got past a resilient Dunedin squad 15-9, 15-10 to advance to the championship match at 5:30 tonight against Tarpon Springs. The Spongers beat East Lake 15-12, 14-16, 15-7 in the other semifinal match.
Clearwater, behind middle hitter Stacey Roberts, had to come back from early deficits in both games to secure the victory. Keying the win for Clearwater was Stacey Roberts and Jamie Higinbotham, who was out for most of the season with a leg injury. Higinbotham replaced Amy Hahn as a hitter. Hahn went down with a sprained ankle in the Tarpon Springs match and is lost for the season.
"I thought we played a nice transition game," Clearwater coach Anne Balderson said. "We also made some nice blocks."
For Tarpon Springs coach Stefanie Decker, it's the same old situation. Again, the Spongers had trouble in the second game of a match and watched the Eagles, behind the play of Brandi McCollom, take 14-11 lead in route to a 16-14 win to tie the match. The Spongers came back in the final game behind Shannon Cooper, who led all players with 15 kills.
"It's like this every single match," Decker said. "We get ahead of someone early and then we seem to fool around in the second game and let the other team back in the match. I feel like I'm in Groundhog Day, watching the same game over and over again."
5A-8: Pinellas Park,
Largo advance to final
PINELLAS PARK _ Pinellas Park and Largo both won semifinal matches behind star players Tracy Schroader and Jen Chenoweth in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament.
The Patriots defeated St. Petersburg 15-13, 15-4 with Schroader controlling the net while Largo downed Gibbs 15-13, 15-10 behind Chenoweth's frontcourt presence. That set up tonight's championship match starting at 6:30 p.m. at Pinellas Park High. The Patriots are defending district champions.
"I feel confident with our players," Pinellas Park coach Hollie Miller said. "We have goals and we're close to attaining one. We just need to stay enthusiastic."
Pinellas Park had trouble in the first game against the Green Devils before Schroader's play along the front-court sparked the Patriots. In the second game, Beth Young's serving and Kristi Beatty's leadership provided the momentum for Pinellas Park. Beatty had 11 assists in the second game.
"It took awhile to come together in the first game," Miller said. "We really began playing well after that first game."
Largo used the strength of Chenoweth and superb serving of Michelle Maki to get by a pesky Gibbs squad.
_ WAYNE McKNIGHT
2A-10: Keswick returns
to meet Shorecrest
ST. PETERSBURG _ It will be an all Pinellas County finish at the Class 2A, District 10 tournament tonight. As Keswick Christian and Shorecrest Prep won semifinal matches Thursday night at the Northside Christian gym.
Keswick (18-10), a finalist last year, defeated Sarasota Christian, 15-8, 15-5, and Shorecrest (24-8) rallied in the third game against Bradenton Christian for a 15-9, 12-15, 15-11 victory.
"We lost seven players from that team, so I am pleasantly surprised to be back," Keswick coach Karrmayne King said of returning to the final. "We're peaking at just the right time."
Shorecrest, which has defeated the Crusaders three times already this season, was led for the second night in a row by the combination of Heather Bradley, with 12 kills in the three games, and Sheila Chacko, with 22 assists, plus 12 assists in the team's two Tuesday night games. The Chargers trailed 11-9 in the third game but a run of four consecutive points behind the serving of Kimberly Cady, including two aces, put Shorecrest ahead for good.
_ JACK HOUGHTELING