Few would blame Clearwater for feeling somewhat uneasy before this season.
Steeped in tradition, talent and coming off a third consecutive Pinellas County Athletic Conference title, the Tornadoes did not seem likely candidates for trepidation. But a tumultuous offseason fostered questions.
Lynn Hallmark, who guided the Tornadoes to a state championship during her five-year tenure, left coaching. Sloane Baby, th e Times ' Pinellas County player of the year, bolted for Berkeley Prep. How would the Tornadoes respond?
Few would have blamed first-year coach Tracy Sedely if Clearwater stumbled out of the blocks while working out the kinks, but the Tornadoes had an answer: a 9-1 start to the season.
"The past is the past and (the changes) are really a nonissue with us," senior setter Kelsey Salava said. "We have so much talent and coach (Sedely) has had us on the same page from Day 1."
Sedely quickly won over her new team, turning what could have been a divisive situation into a cohesive one.
"I love our coaches and I think the biggest difference between this year and last is that we all like being together," junior middle blocker Kristin Fisher said. Sedely (Tracy Schroeder before marriage) is no stranger to the local volleyball scene, having capture d Times ' county player of the year honors in 1995. At 27, Sedely is less than a decade older than some of her players, but she was careful to establish a definitive pecking order.
"I had to establish a line not to cross," Sedely said. "My job first and foremost is to win games."
Salava said the team has taken to Sedely and realizes there is a time and place for everything.
"I think she gets us more because she isn't much older than us," Salava said. "Sometimes she talks to us about things outside of volleyball but she's our coach, not our friend."
Salava is also a main reason for plugging the hole left by Baby. Salava and sister Channing give Sedely a pair of setters for to utilize.
"I use two setters because it gives us more options offensively," Sedely said. "It's rare you find one player with hands as good as theirs and I am blessed to have two."
Clearwater's solid start suggests the team has adapted despite the departures, but the Tornadoes get their first real district test tonight at 7:30 at East Lake. The Eagles, Tornadoes and Palm Harbor U. all figure to battle for the top spot in the area's toughest district.
"East Lake has some big hitters and some girls who can really dig," Fisher said. "We know they'll be sending balls back at us, we just have to stay together and fight for each point."
SHORECREST 3, CANTERBURY 0: Kim Newton's six aces led a strong serving attack as Shorecrest won 25-23, 25-17, 25-12.
Chelsea Rabe (10 digs) led the Chargers (7-7) with 12 kills and Newton added 11. Shorecrest's Rachel Sanderford had 26 assists while Alisa French finished with seven kills.
"I start three sophomores so we are extremely young," Chargers coach Kelly Jackson said. "But we have some talented athletes and I think they are starting to jell as a team."
LAKEWOOD 3, PINELLAS PARK 1: The Spartans got off to a miserable start in Game 1, but rebounded to defeat the Patriots 9-25, 25-19, 25-11, 25-11.
"We pretty much just slept through the first (game)," Lakewood coach Donna Dicus said. "But that's one of those games where you just have to put it behind you and move on."
The Spartans (9-3) set a season high with 19 blocks, paced by sophomore Emily Bingham's nine. Bingham also led Lakewood in kills with five while Evan Ligon, Taylor Whaley and Gina Hedrick each finished with four. Veronica Bovero had 19 assists for the Spartans.