Clearwater easily dispatches Northeast a third straight year en route to its 20th conference crown.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published October 14, 2004
CLEARWATER - For the record, Northeast senior Kim Clark does not think Clearwater is that much better than her Vikings. She is not afraid of the Tornadoes. And she was not shaking in her boots at the sight of the county's best team when it came out on the court for Wednesday's match.
Problem was, not every Viking appeared to share Clark's opinion.
Call it mystique or reputation, but No. 7 Clearwater put the pressure on early, Northeast failed to respond and by the end of the match, the Tornadoes had their 20th Pinellas County Athletic Conference title via a 25-7, 25-18, 25-13 victory.
"We have a very young team," Clark said. "I tried to talk to them. That's all you can do. But they (Clearwater) walk out there and we're scared to death of them. We definitely didn't play like we usually play."
It was Northeast's fourth straight loss in the PCAC final, and third straight against the Tornadoes.
The Vikings (16-6) failed to stop Clearwater's early onslaught with poor passing, but gamely fought back a game later and even led midway through.
But the deep Tornadoes, leading 17-16, closed the second game with an 8-2 run and never trailed in the final game.
"I thought we came out hard and played hard, which is what we try to do every night," Clearwater setter Sloane Baby said.
The Tornadoes' depth was the key to victory. While Northeast relied on seniors Clark and Jessie Bowman, Clearwater got kills from almost everyone on the roster.
Six players had kills in the opening game and in Game 2, and seven had kills in the third.
Highlighting the difference between the teams, Northeast pulled within 17-16 in the second game. But in the final 10 points, only two were scored by Northeast, both on kills by Bowman.
Clearwater scored its eight points on kills from Sarah Sloan, Kristin Fisher, Kelsey Salava, Eileen Case and Baby.
Case had 11 kills to lead the Tornadoes, who moved to 19-4.
"Eileen had an outstanding night," Clearwater coach Lynn Hallmark said. "She was just killing it out there."
Clearwater hasn't lost a home match since 2001 and will enter next week's district tournament as a No. 1 seed.
"We take great pride in the tradition here at Clearwater," Hallmark said.
"We know everyone's season is made when they face Clearwater and beat them. So there's a certain amount of tradition there. Tonight, we just wanted to build on that."