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Crusaders can't hold on to leads

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 10, 2002

ARCADIA -- Tampa Catholic tried to keep it close right up until the end. But the end came nonetheless.

ARCADIA -- Tampa Catholic tried to keep it close right up until the end. But the end came nonetheless.

Saturday afternoon's semifinal was a rerun of last year's semifinal, and, while the result was different, the outcome remained the same: Host Arcadia DeSoto County ended Tampa Catholic's season 15-8, 15-9.

"We played hard," Crusaders coach Ernie Fry said. "We just didn't get that right momentum going at the right time.

"Our serve return broke down. Blame it all on the coach, not the kids. The kids played with all their hearts."

Tampa Catholic (15-10) held a 3-0 lead in the first game thanks to Ashlie Teeling's service point, a dink into the opposing centercourt and a DeSoto County error. Candace Giles' service point gave TC its biggest lead of the game at 6-2.

The Bulldogs closed on the lead thanks to back-to-back aces by Jennifer Allen to cut it to 8-7. DeSoto County tied it 8-8 and took the lead off a Tampa Catholic error. Nakisha Arrington's kill made it 10-8 as the Bulldogs pulled away, and she ended the first game with an ace that dropped right into the middle of the Crusaders defense.

Tampa Catholic took another 3-0 lead in the second game off a Giles kill before giving up the lead. Teeling's kill tied it 4-4, and DeSoto County pulled away again. Two Bulldogs errors kept it close at 10-9. It was 12-9 when Arrington took over with three consecutive kills to finish the match.

Giles and Teeling led the Crusaders with four kills apiece. Arrington led DeSoto County with eight kills and four aces.

"This year was better," Fry said. "(Last year), we played with them the first game, the second they blew us away. We did much better.

"I have a good group of seniors I'm going to miss."

In the other region semifinal, Fort Myers Bishop Verot, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, beat No. 10 Wesley Chapel (19-7) 15-7, 15-4. Bishop Verot (25-8) defeated DeSoto County (26-6) 15-9, 4-15, 15-10 in the final to advance to Thursday's Class 3A state semifinals at the Lakeland Center.

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