TARPON SPRINGS – Just to make sure his team didn't forget, Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed wore a T-shirt to practice for a week with the score "19-21″ printed on the front. That was the score of last year's fifth-set in a loss to Naples Lely in the Class 6A region semifinals.
Clearly, the Spongers got the message.
Tarpon Springs jumped on the Trojans early and never let up in a 25-7, 25-10, 25-9 win in the regional semifinals. The Spongers (22-7) will play at Robinson on Tuesday in the Class 6A region final.
"Every day we were reminded of what happened last year," said junior outside hitter Anya Reinhard, who had eight kills. "This year we expected to go a lot further than last year, and this is just a confidence booster. Now we feel we can go all the way."
It only took 53 minutes for Tarpon Springs to finish off Lely. That's because all three sets had the same theme: The Spongers jump out to a big early lead and don't let up. In the first game, they started by taking a 5-2 lead. Then with the score 6-2 after a Mackenzie Dufresne kill, they went on a 9-0 run that included three aces by Gabby Kennedy.
Lely (12-9) got three straight points to make it 16-6, then came an 8-0 run that included three Elly Collins aces to erase any chance.
In the second game, Tarpon Springs started with a 9-2 lead thanks mainly to Lely errors and two aces by Dufresne. The Spongers had nine aces in the match. The second game ended with a 7-0 run that ended on an errant serve.
The Trojans did show some life in the third game. The took an early 6-4 lead and the game was tied at 7. Leading 9-8, Tarpon Springs went on another long run, this time 9-0, the included a kill and two aces from Jill Foster.
In last season's loss to Lely, the Spongers led 2-0 before losing the match. They made sure that didn't happen this season.
"I told them when we were up 2-0 this time, 'I don't need to give you the speech, do I?'" Sneed said. "They knew what was at stake. They handled themselves well.
"I thought last year we would make it to the Elite Eight and we kind of overlooked Lely. We did not overlook them this year. We didn't want to let that happen again."
With the memory of last season's loss erased, Sneed had one last duty before he let his team go home. He took the "19-21″ T-shirt and ripped it up. Time for the region final.