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Terps close in on title

Tampa Prep shakes off early nerves to top Oak Hall in four games and advance to the final.

KEITH NIEBUHR
Published November 11, 2004

LAKELAND - They have long visualized this day.

Of winning the match.

Of wrapping their arms around the trophy.

And now, thanks to Wednesday's 24-26, 25-18, 25-15, 25-15 win over Gainesville Oak Hall in a Class 2A semifinal at The Lakeland Center, the Tampa Prep Terrapins finally have the chance to turn dreams into reality. The Terrapins, who last won a state title in 2001, face unbeaten Ft. Lauderdale Westminster Academy in today's 2 p.m. final.

"We'll probably not be able to sleep (Wednesday night)," Tampa Prep setter Brittany Pierpont said.

Tampa Prep (21-4), a bit jittery at the start, struggled in the opening game, then took control. The Terrapins, whom some regard as the state's most balanced squad, broke out of their funk midway through the second game, then were never seriously challenged.

Tampa Prep's defense was outstanding, but it was a relentless offensive attack that gave Oak Hall (18-12) the most trouble.

"Playing defense against them was difficult because everything was so fast," said Oak Hall outside hitter Kelley Blakewood, who led the Eagles with 19 kills.

Tampa Prep setters Lauren Miles (11 assists) and Pierpont (27 assists) dictated the tempo with accurate and well-placed passes, and the Terrapins' net players delivered.

Jordan Canas, Samantha McAvoy and Rachael Phillips combined for 16 kills and outside hitter Jess Thomas might have been the match's most valuable player. Most of her 17 kills seemed to come at crucial moments.

"She's just an awesome player and she stepped up big time," said Oak Hall outside hitter Kelly Davies.

After the match, longtime Oak Hall coach Cari Martin called Tampa Prep the best team in Florida. Her players didn't disagree. But for Tampa Prep, there still is work left to do. The Terrapins can see the trophy. But now they want to hold it.

"We're just going to treat (the final) like it's another match," Pierpont said.

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