The Palm Harbor University gymnasium, which opened about a year ago, is among the biggest and most expensive in the county. There are classrooms, training rooms and a weight room, but no room for any trophies. There is no trophy case because none of the varsity teams had won any.
That all changed Friday night when the Hurricane volleyball team rallied to beat Sickles in the final of the Class 4A, District 12 tournament. It is the school's first district title in any sport.
Winning the district was something coach Karen Kreger discussed with her players during the first team meeting three months ago.
It was a lofty goal considering what happened the year before. In their debut season, the Hurricanes had to practice at Palm Harbor Middle School, played most of their matches on the road and didn't participate in any tournaments. The result was one victory.
But Kreger forgot about the past and remembered one important thing.
All her players were returning.
"The biggest difference between this year and last year is experience," Kreger said. "We had 11 players that were on a club team and played volleyball six more months during the year. That's a tremendous help when you don't have any seniors."
The biggest push came from junior Jennifer Dull, the captain of the team. Dull had four years of club experience and encouraged most of her teammates to join her. They did and the Palm Harbor U. players came into the season familiar with one another. The Hurricanes prepared for a possible playoff berth with a difficult schedule that included some tournaments. And they finally had a home to call their own.
The progress was evident throughout the season. Palm Harbor U. tied for third place at the Clearwater Invitational, was second at the Clearwater Central Catholic tournament and capped it off with a district title.
"I was pleased to see that we gradually kept building through the season," Kreger said. "We worked real hard in practice and it's nice to see that it's all paying off."
Tonight, the Hurricanes host Auburndale in the regional quarterfinals at 7. With a win, they can advance to the semifinals on Friday.
"We accomplished what we wanted to do," Dull said. "The rest is just icing on the cake."
VOLLEYBALL REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS
Class 6A, Region I (North)
Bloomingdale at East Lake, 7 p.m. _ The Eagles advanced to the regional semifinals last year and are hoping for another appearance.
Class 5A, Region I (South)
Lakewood at Clearwater (Countryside High), 7 p.m. _ The Tornadoes will try to add to their school-record 28 consecutive victories.
Class 5A, Region II (South)
Pinellas Park at St. Petersburg, 7 p.m. _ After playing Lakewood in the quarterfinals the past two years, the Patriots get the Green Devils, who won their first district title.
Class 4A, Region II (South)
Auburndale at Palm Harbor Univ., 7 p.m. _ The Hurricanes reached their goal and won districts. Now they set their goals higher.
Class 2A, Region I (South)
Northside Chr. at Lakeland Chr., 6 p.m. _ The Mustangs are trying to make it back to the state tournament and get another shot at Tampa Prep.
Class A, Region I (South)
Keswick Chr. at Bayshore Chr., 7 p.m. _ The Crusaders were one match away from the state tournament last year and will try again this year on the road.
Class A Region II (South)
Seminole Presbyterian at Shorecrest, 7 p.m. _ The Chargers are back in the playoffs after missing last year. They beat Lancers in two games at a tournament this season.