CLEARWATER - With the postseason starting in two weeks, Clearwater wanted to send a clear message to potential district road blocks Palm Harbor and East Lake: How does second place sound?
On back-to-back nights, Clearwater emphatically made its point, easily dispatching the Hurricanes, then returning Wednesday to hand a surprisingly lopsided 25-11, 25-17, 25-15 defeat to the Eagles to secure the top seed in Class 5A, District 9.
The win also clinches a spot in next week's Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game against Northeast.
"That's a big deal to us," outside hitter Kristin Fisher said. "That's the third year in a row for us, and it's been a long time since anyone has done that."
Fisher was the best player on the floor Wednesday. Everything she hit over the net was gold. Her 12 kills led the Tornadoes, who improved to 13-3.
East Lake (11-5) was more than accommodating, playing its worst match of the year. In the first game, it surrendered four points by going into the net, three by not getting the ball over the net in three hits, five with hitting errors and three on bad returns. That was all the opening Clearwater needed, with Channing Salava serving brilliantly (nine points) and Fisher spraying kills.
"That was the most disappointing performance all year," East Lake coach Terry Small said. "With the chance to represent the PCAC and the county, to do that ... that's not what we've been doing this year."
East Lake never scored more than three consecutive points, while Clearwater had five runs of at least five points.
Almost fittingly, the match ended with three straight Eagles errors - two more in the net calls, and a hitting error.
"We did want to send a message," Clearwater coach Lynn Hallmark said. "When you play us, you better have your best game."