After stumbling through the second game of its Class 6A, District 5 championship match with Gaither, East Lake came out smoking in the decisive game three, winning the first seven points on the way to a 15-9, 7-15, 15-6 victory.
"They came out in the third game fired up and we were back on our heels," said Gaither coach Kevin Reynolds, whose team still plays a regional quarterfinal Tuesday at Bradenton Manatee. "The ultimate goal is to win the match, but we quit executing."
"We totally pumped it up," said East Lake senior Kate Cigoi, who finished with four kills and three blocks. "This was our toughest game."
The loss of setter Tanya Phillips after a jaw injury caused by a collision with a teammate didn't help the Eagles chances, either.
When Phillips went down in the second game, East Lake (20-8) trailed 9-7. It would not get another point. The offense spent the rest of game two in a funk and the defense became prone to errors _ a lift here, a net foul there, often adding up to Cowboy (11-4) points.
A new East Lake team emerged in the final game, earning a home match Tuesday against Bloomingdale. A big kill by Molly Dolon, followed by two more from Faith Tarver (her eight on the match led the Eagles) gave the Eagles a quick 3-0 advantage. Four more points came quickly before Gaither could get on the board.
Leading the way during a five-point Cowboys rally attempt was Jessica Sattler, who picked up two of her match-high 12 kills during the stretch. She, along with Jennifer Harak (six kills, three blocks) and Tally Payne (six kills), provided most of the Cowboys' offense.
A bad set ended the run, forcing a side out. Two Gaither spikes into the net gave a pair of points and, more important, the momentum, back to the Eagles. East Lake scored the next five points to win its third consecutive district title.