ST. PETERSBURG - Jessie Bowman wasn't supposed to be the best hitter on the court Thursday night. She wasn't supposed to be the best defensive player out there either. And despite having a pretty good serve, she wasn't supposed to be the best at that.
But in all three cases, that's the way it turned out.
Riding their do-it-all senior middle hitter, Northeast made surprisingly quick work of Seminole in the Class 5A, District 10 championship, ending the Warhawks two-year hold on the title with a 25-17, 25-23, 25-23 victory.
The Vikings (18-6) won their 13th match in their last 14, sweeping all nine games it played in the district tournament and earning the right to host 5A-9 runner-up East Lake next week in the first round of the state playoffs. Seminole will meet 5A-9 champ Clearwater.
Northeast has lost its state playoff opener to Countryside, East Lake and Clearwater the past three seasons.
Thursday, though, the Vikings were able to win every possible way against Seminole. In the first game, it led 17-16 before pulling away. In the second game, it squandered a 21-14 lead but held on; in the final game, it rallied from 18-12 down.
"We wanted it more," said Bowman. "We just went for it. Nothing was going to stop us. They beat us earlier this year and we just wanted payback."
Bowman served three straight aces to cap an 8-1 run to end the first game, and had three straight kills to give the Vikings their 21-14 lead in Game 2 before Seminole (17-5) rallied.
Ashley Martin, the best player on the court but never able to be a big factor, had a block, tip and two soft kills to key nine straight Warhawk points, giving them the lead at 23-21.
But Bowman had a kill and Kim Clark quick set a brilliant ball to Seminole's unguarded backline to tie it before two Warhawk hitting errors let Northeast escape with the win.
In the third game, Martin was finally set for some thunderous kills, the last giving Seminole a 20-16 lead. But Clark started a six-point run with a kill and capped it with consecutive aces to put Northeast ahead, and Rachel Hibbard had consecutive kills to set up match point.
Martin finished with 13 kills, six coming in the final game. For Northeast, Bowman also had 13 kills, and added five aces.
5A-9: Clearwater cruises
CLEARWATER - To say East Lake had nothing to lose would be incorrect. True, the Eagles already had secured a playoff berth with Wednesday's dramatic comeback win over Palm Harbor U. But they still had an opportunity to host a playoff game, not to mention a shot at the district title.
But they could not muster the emotion needed to even come close to continuing their Cinderella story. Instead it was a tale of two Salavas as Clearwater dominated 25-10, 25-13, 25-18.
Kelsey and Channing Salava closed the book on East Lake in a businesslike manner.
"Their serving, both of them put on a clinic," Clearwater coach Lynn Hallmark said. "They lead our team in aces. Channing has a little slide serve."
Channing, a freshman, capped an early 6-0 Tornado run with two aces to make the score 7-1 in the first game.
Kelsey finished game two like her younger sister started game one. The junior registered two aces during a stretch where her serves dominated five out of the last six points. Her service versatility helped her exploit weaknesses in East Lake's service receive game.
"Coach knows I can see the floor better than she can from sitting on the bench," Kelsey said. "I can just read what they are going to have trouble with from the way they set-up."
"Kelsey Salava has the green light to pull out any serve. She has a repertoire of serves," Hallmark said. "I feel like she is one of the best servers in the county."
East Lake undoubtedly agrees. The Salava sisters combined for 12 service points in a game two when the Eagles scored only 13 as a team.
"They served us off the court," East Lake coach Terry Small said. "We couldn't stop them. When they do that you just can't develop any offense. We were just kind of running around staring up in the sky."
"Both of those girls are tremendous players," Hallmark said. "They exercise a lot of ball control in every area of the game. Not only are they great servers, they are great passers, setters, hitters. They are just great players."