ST. PETERSBURG — The only time Calvary Christian and Clearwater Central Catholic met in the regular season, the Marauders won a close first set and went on to win the match. On Thursday night, in the Class 3A, District 6 final at Northside Christian, it was the Warriors who won a close first set and never looked back.
Calvary Christian jumped out to an early lead, withstood a CCC comeback and won 27-25 to start the match. The Warriors closed it out with a 25-21 second-set win and a no-doubt 25-11 third-set victory to claim the district championship.
While both teams have already qualified for the region tournament due to their high rankings, at stake was home-court advantage throughout. Calvary Christian (24-2) will have that advantage when the quarterfinals start Thursday.
The final rankings and tournament brackets will be released on Sunday night.
“This is probably the most motivated we’ve been all season," Calvary Christian senior outside hitter Ana Volini said. “(The first set) was make it or break it for us. We played them a couple weeks ago and they won a close first set. It was really important for us to win the first set because it set the mood."
Calvary Christian, the top seed, was sharp from the beginning. The Warriors jumped out to an 11-4 lead thanks to kills by Cathryn Long, Volini and Lauren Cairo. The teams traded points in the middle of the set, but CCC (22-5) finally got on a roll.
The Marauders, the second seed, scored six of seven points to take a 22-20 lead. Linsey Harrison was big at the net with two blocks. Kasey Singer also had a block and Brooke Green added a kill.
Calvary Christian got two points back thanks to errors and tied it at 22-22.
It was tied 25-25 when the Warriors put it away. Long, who had 18 kills overall, had one to make it 26-26. A CCC kill attempt hit the net to end the set.
“The first set was big," Calvary Christian coach Kim Whitney said. “I told the girls the first set makes a difference. Last time we played them they won the first set. I pointed that out to them. Pulling it out helped us a lot."
CCC had a 15-14 lead in the second set, but that evaporated when the Warriors scored four straight. CCC got to within two points, but Calvary Christian scored four of the last six points to take a 2-0 lead.
The third set was not close. Behind the serving of Cairo, the Warriors took a quick 6-0 lead. That seemed to take the air out of CCC. It was 15-4 midway through. Calvary Christian scored the final four points on kills by Long and her sister, Jennafer. Jennafer Long also had an ace. A block ended the match.
“I was studying film on them every free moment I had," Cathryn Long said. “Every study period I had, last night, the night before. We were all studying. That’s why we were so prepared. We were so motivated for this."
Aside from CCC, the only other loss this season for the Warriors was to Ocala Trinity Christian at the Berkeley Premier tournament. They are ranked eighth in the state in any class and will be the top-seeded team in the Class 3A region.
“I think we played to our potential," Whitney said. “When you lose to a team you kind of figure out what you did wrong. We came out this time way better prepared."