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Venice's power, size end Gaither's season

The Indians, the top seed in District 5 and second-ranked team in Class 6A, win 15-4, 15-6.

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

RIVERVIEW -- The chances of Gaither overcoming Venice on Tuesday and advancing to the final of the Class 6A, District 5 volleyball tournament were slim.

Venice entered ranked second in the state, had an opening-round bye and was seeded No. 1.

The Indians had beaten Gaither twice this season and to boot, Venice fans outnumbered Cowboy faithful nearly six to one.

"They're an awesome team," Gaither coach Cindy Smith said.

And the Indians (23-6) proved their dominance by handily defeating Gaither 15-4, 15-6, advancing to play Sarasota in Thursday's final at Riverview.

"Venice is a great team. They have a lot of height, great hitters and a variation of serves that forces teams to adjust," said Smith, whose Cowboys (7-8) defeated Riverview in the first round on Monday.

The Indians wasted little time backing up their lofty ranking.

Venice streaked to leads of 6-0 and 10-4 in Game 1. Five successive points, capped by a defense-splitting spike from Clarissa Walker, finished the game.

Trailing by two in Game 2, the Cowboys strung together their most impressive stretch of the match. Gaither reeled off five straight points and took a 5-2 lead on Alexandra Guillermety's block.

But it was all Venice from there.

"I thought that in the second match, (Gaither) played a lot tougher and competed a little bit," Venice coach Brian Wheatley said. "But when we ran our system, we were in pretty good shape."

The Indians, bolstered by a much bigger front line, rallied for nine consecutive points, turning the three-point deficit into an 11-5 advantage and ending the Cowboys' season.

"They were digging my big hitters," Smith said. "But we couldn't dig their big hitters."

Despite finishing below .500, Smith said numbers should not be the lone measuring stick of the Cowboys' season.

"The seniors are a little sad (the season is over), but I would call this season a success.

"Our overall record doesn't show that, but there's a lot of team unity here, the girls get along and they had a good time."

The third-seeded Sailors defeated cross-town rival Sarasota Riverview 15-8, 16-14 in the other semifinal.

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