It doesn't seem right. How can a team playing for its third coach in four years be so tough to beat? When you add a lack of size and experience, it makes it harder to discern the success of the East Lake volleyball team.
Not only did the fledgling Eagles wrap their wings around a third straight district title last week, they advanced to the regional semifinal for a third straight year Tuesday in a motivated match on their home court. East Lake had little trouble with Bloomingdale in a 15-8, 15-5 victory.
First-year coach Terry Small pointed to one thing that has brought his team closer than the meshing of a volleyball net. With one senior and no 6-footers in the starting lineup, the Eagles overcame an experienced Bulls squad that featured four seniors and two juniors because of one common denominator, Smalls said:
"I couldn't ask for anything better," Small said of his first campaign at East Lake. "I expected it because this is East Lake and it has been successful the past few years. I put those expectations on the kids."
The Eagles (21-8) responded. Faith Tarver and Ryane Resmondo combined for 18 kills as East Lake never trailed by more than a point.
The serving that handed Bloomingdale coach Bonnie Hess her 300th career win this year also was responsible for her 70th loss. The Bulls (17-10) missed seven in the first game.
Middle blocker Susan Bindshedler, who Hess called "the best player I've ever had," led Bloomingdale with 10 kills, most coming off setter Brooke Waite's 10 assists.
Class 4A, South II
PALM HARBOR _ Emotions always play a big role in playoff matches. That was especially true Tuesday night in the Class 5A, Region II quarterfinals between Palm Harbor University and Auburndale.
For Palm Harbor University, there was the chance of being too emotionally high after winning the school's first district championship and playing in its first regional. For Auburndale, there was the chance of being too emotionally drained after the death of Randy Guy, an Auburndale supporter and uncle of two Bloodhounds' players who died Monday night in an air boat accident.
The result was a roller-coaster, three-game thriller won by Palm Harbor U., 14-16, 17-15, 15-7.
"I think we're even surprising ourselves," Hurricanes' coach Karen Kreger said. "After we won districts that's about all anybody expected us to do. But we showed that if we play hard, we can go even farther."
This certainly has been a memorable season for Palm Harbor University. It continued in dramatic fashion.
After building an 11-1 lead in the first game, the Hurricanes began to unravel. Auburndale chipped away at the lead and closed to 14-13. The Bloodhounds' Jessica Waters served an ace to make it 14-14, and another ace by Carla West after a sideout made it 15-14 Auburndale.
The game ended when Jennifer Porello's bump landed out of bounds, making the Auburndale comeback complete.
"At that point we were just thinking we didn't want it to end like this," Palm Harbor University's Jenn Dull said. "That sort of thing has happened to us all season, and we didn't want it to happen here."
But the Hurricanes didn't let a lead slip away in the second game. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never let the Bloodhounds get closer than two points.
In the deciding game, Dull served seven straight points to build an 11-5 lead. Lauren Goldoni had a key kill to make it 14-7 and Dull put the game away with a kill.
_ RODNEY PAGE
Class 2A, South I
Northside Christian, the 2A-10 district champions, stayed on a post-season roll by defeating Lakeland Christian 15-2, 15-1.
The Mustangs face Fort Pierce John Carroll in the regional semifinals on Friday. John Carroll defeated Belle Glade Glades Day 15-6, 11-15, 15-2.
_ TIMES STAFF
Class A, South I
TAMPA _ The final nail just wouldn't go in.
Keswick Christian found itself within three points of victory in games two and three but couldn't finish off Bayshore Christian. The result: an 8-15, 15-12, 15-12 Bayshore Christian win in the regional quarterfinals.
A Kristin Sander kill appeared to give the Faith Warriors (23-5) a 7-6 lead, but they were whistled for a back-row attack, negating the point. Two straight Lindsey Kruis kills in response gave Keswick (18-13) an 8-6 lead it wouldn't lose.
Games 2 and 3 were tight, although Keswick had its chances in each.
Keswick trailed Game 3 10-8 before a four-point run featuring two Alyssa Haigh kills and two Heidi Jensen aces that gave it a 12-10 lead.
Three aces by Bayshore's Rachel Rowley brought the Faith Warriors back from a 12-10 deficit in Game 3. An Ashley Cramer kill followed by a net foul earned Bayshore the victory.
_ ERIC RANGUS
Class A, South II
ST. PETERSBURG _ Host Shorecrest swept Seminole Presbyterian in the regional quarterfinals, 15-8, 15-11.
Jumping out to a four-point lead early with consecutive blocks by Tracy Houston, Seminole Presbyterian took advantage of Shorecrest's hesitation and a lack of communication. After Katie Taylor's ace made it 4-0, Charger coach Kathy Sessions brought in Lisa Bradley, normally a starter but benched for minor disciplinary reasons. Bradley responded immediately with a kill for the sideout.
Then Shorecrest's net dominance began emerging.
With the consistent outside setting of freshman Carly Zillig, Bradley's two kills were succeeded by two Sydnie Zillig kills, then a Bacon block for point. Bradley added two aces, making it 10-6.
Shorecrest got aces by Jessica Sher and Carly Zillig and the final kill by Katie Haskell.
"We were not passing well," Sessions said of the first game.
In the second game, the Chargers were again slow to gain momentum and trailed early 5-1. But Bacon stepped up with three straight kills and provided an ace to make it 10-8. Kills by Bacon, Sydnie Zillig and Haskell closed it out.
_ ED REED