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Practice as targets pays as PHU wins at Keswick

The Hurricanes practiced against college players to get ready for their first regular-season tournament title.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - With a 3-2 record and tough district matches the next two weeks, Palm Harbor University needed to find a way to regroup if it wanted to make the playoffs.

The Keswick Christian Invitational was the perfect tonic.

The Hurricanes swept their five matches, including a 25-23, 24-26, 15-12 victory over Maitland Orangewood Christian in the final. It was the first time Palm Harbor University's volleyball program has won a tournament title in the regular season.

"We played incredible," said coach Tara Burton, who guided Sarasota Cardinal Mooney to two district titles before taking over the Hurricanes this season. "We've been playing to the other team's level lately, so it was nice to stay consistent with everything all weekend. You can tell how badly this team wants to win."

To help Palm Harbor University prepare, Burton brought in college players from her club team to pound away at the Hurricanes during practice while they played defense.

The strategy worked, as Palm Harbor University beat Belleview, Shorecrest and Tampa Catholic in pool play, Keswick Christian in a semifinal and Orangewood Christian in the final.

The championship match proved to be tougher than the previous four, as the Hurricanes dropped the second game and had trouble putting away the third despite building a 12-6 lead.

In the final game, Palm Harbor University's Christine Tan took over.

The sophomore outside hitter started finding spots in Orangewood Christian's defense and exposed them with several kills down the stretch.

Tan was named MVP and teammates Billie Jo Iles and Carlie Kearney were named to the all-tournament team.

"Winning this tournament was a real confidence booster for us," Tan said. "It was important that we get off to a good start this season because we're in such a tough district. We'll keep getting better."

Others on the all-tournament team were: Nikki Cole (Clearwater Central Catholic), Kelley Egan (Tampa Catholic), Lane Feaster (Northside Christian), Jen King (Largo), Ashley Martin (Seminole), Katie Mitcham (Bayshore Christian), Shauna Swanson (Keswick Christian), Rachel Miller (Orangewood Christian) and Cara Childers (Orangewood Christian).


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