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PHCC volleyball team picks good time to peak

Charging your cellular phone the morning before your car shuts down on the interstate is good timing.

Having your volleyball team finally come into its own in the final tournament of the regular season and on the eve of the playoffs also is good timing.

And that, they say, is everything.

As the Pasco-Hernando Community College volleyball team wrapped up its regular season with a momentum-building win at the Manatee CC tournament last weekend, coach Heidi Grunwald could not help but be encouraged.

"We are 14-1 in our last 15 matches and the only loss in those games is to No. 6-ranked Indian River CC," Grunwald said. "Some of the coaches are saying that we are peaking at the right time. You could not be in better position now that we are going into the state tournament after winning our conference and the Manatee tournament."

Indeed, the Conquistadors are hitting consistently. They are digging as good as they have all season. But most important, they are focusing and executing the way Grunwald imagined at the start of the season.

"There are a lot of really good things going on," said Grunwald. "Everyone is getting along well and we are getting solid play on offense and defense."

The week of solid play began last Tuesday when PHCC knocked off St. Petersburg Junior College 16-14, 15-6, 8-15, 15-10 to win the Suncoast Conference title. That qualified the Conquistadors for a spot in the state tournament Nov. 6-8 in Orlando.

Over the weekend, PHCC continued its form by taking five of six games in the Manatee tournament. Playing in a pool that included Indian River, Palm Beach, South Florida and Broward community colleges, PHCC won two of its three opening-round games and then cruised through the knockout round to claim the title.

In Friday's opener, PHCC got seven kills and 15 digs from Jackie Weekes, 11 kills from Janelle Mason and nine kills from Megan McGonical to roll to a 15-13, 15-2 victory. Then, despite a .500 hitting percentage from Weekes (six kills) and her 15 digs, PHCC lost a hard-fought 12-15, 12-15 decision to Indian River.

On Saturday, the Conquistadors rebounded with a 15-5, 13-15, 15-11 win over Palm Beach CC. Once again, it was Weekes, a freshman from the British Virgin Islands, who led the charge. She hit a whopping .770 with 11 kills and 21 digs. The first-year star was at it again in PHCC's next game when she recorded seven kills and 10 digs in a 15-6, 15-10 victory over Broward.

"She is really playing great right now," Grunwald said of Weekes. "We pretty much live by her when she's digging balls in the back row and the same when she is in the front row."

Weekes hit .320 with five kills and 14 digs while Tiffany Twaddle added eight kills to lead PHCC to a 15-8, 15-6 decision over Florida Community College at Jacksonville.

In the tournament's semifinals, Weekes had eight kills and 13 digs to lead PHCC to a 16-14, 15-7 victory over HCC.

Weekes saved her best performance for last. In the tournament final, she hit .370 with 17 kills and 26 digs to spark a 13-15, 15-9, 15-7 victory over Indian River.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: It seemed as if it was yesterday when the Conquistadors opened practice for the 1997-98 basketball season with a returning nucleus of four starters.

At the time, coach Bobby Bowman said he felt blessed that his team would not have to do too much revision.

But revision time is looking better and better.

"It turns a little cooler, a little dark and we have to get to the gym a little earlier," said Bowman. "The next thing you know, you're back to playing again. I always prefer some extra time. A week would be good, and there is some talk to start practice on Sept. 15 (two weeks earlier)."

The Conquistadors have settled on a lineup for the opening game this weekend at the Santa Fe CC invitational (PHCC plays Brunswick CC of North Carolina at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and the Martinique national team at 4 p.m. Sunday). Barring injury, Dwayne Williams and Robert Langston will play the point and shooting guards respectively, Ryan Callahan and Willie Jones will play forward, and Jarrod Hill will start at center.

"I think we're ready to play," Bowman said. "But you never know until you actually play. We are as ready as we can be for the limited number of practices we have had."

PHCC will play Florida College in its home opener at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday.

A GOOD DAY: Thanks to some smooth organization and satisfying participation, the PHCC baseball program got a financial lift this weekend. Saturday's fifth annual Baseball Golf Classic at Timber Greens in New Port Richey raised $2,100, the most ever for the program from a single event.

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