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PERFECT COUGARS LAND PCAC CROWN

Countryside's 25-17, 25-15, 25-19 victory over Lakewood in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship capped two impressive milestones for the Cougars.

One, it gave Countryside its first PCAC title since 2000 and only the second in the school's history.

And second, the victory put the finishing touches on the Cougars' first undefeated regular season - also the first in the distinguished career of coach Kaylyn Bayly.

"(Going undefeated) wasn't something I really ever thought about," Bayly said. "It gets harder the closer you get to the end of the season. It kind of stresses you out a bit if you let it."

Whatever pressure Countryside (24-0) may have felt protecting its unblemished record quickly dissipated amid a flurry of Madison Truluck kills. The senior displayed her full arsenal, mixing powerful spikes with precise tips and generally hitting wherever the Lakewood defense wasn't.

"Madison just plays at a different level," Countryside setter Sara Wright said. "She knows exactly where to put the ball every time."

Tied at 16, Countryside used a late 9-1 run to take Game 1 by eight points. The same scenario played out in Game 2: Lakewood (18-5) hanging with Countryside for a while before the Cougars asserted their dominance, turning a slim 17-14 lead into a 25-15 win.

"That was the best passing team that I've ever seen," said Lakewood coach Sean O'Flannery, who has guided South County teams to nine of the past 10 PCAC title matches but has yet to win.

Countryside broke out to an early five-point lead in Game 3 to snuff any Lakewood comeback hopes.

"We just don't want to lose. I don't know what we'd do if we lost," Truluck said. "That would be bad. We're not very good losers."

Bryan Burns can be reached at bburns@sptimes.com

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