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EAST LAKE - Drenched in sweat and exhausted, Clearwater's Kristin Fisher paused in mid-sentence to collect herself.
"I have no voice left," she said.
Four-game district nail-biters tend to do that to the vocal chords.
The Tornadoes (10-1) mounted a furious first-game rally and withstood one in the fourth to defeat East Lake 25-12, 23-25, 25-23, 29-27 in the teams' first district meeting of the season.
"That was intense," Fisher said. "It was like a playoff game and we knew we had to fight for every point."
Fisher was huge in the middle all night, whether it was splitting the defense with blistering kills or clogging up hitting lanes.
"Kristin was big at the net," Clearwater coach Tracy Sedely said. "I don't think she got blocked very often or dug very often. She was awesome."
Fisher finished with 13 kills, nine coming in the first two games. The junior middle blocker also recorded nine blocks and forced East Lake to spread its offensive attack.
"I was ready to come out here and dominate," Fisher said. "I wasn't expecting the ball as much because they had two big blockers in the middle, but I had some good looks."
East Lake, playing in front of a raucous home crowd, took a 20-13 lead in Game 1 and looked to be handily in control.
"I think we had to work out the nervousness," Sedely said. "I think we needed a wake-up call."
Sedely got just that as the Tornadoes went on a 12-1 run to close out the game, capped off by an Eileen Case (10 kills) spike. East Lake won Game 2 before the Tornadoes regrouped in a Game 3 that featured 18 ties.
East Lake trailed 12-3, then 21-11 at one point in Game 4 and was at match point (24-18) before mounting a stirring comeback. The Eagles' Lindsey Opperman (12 kills, four aces) capped a 6-0 rally and tied it at 24 with a crosscourt winner. East Lake surged ahead 27-26 before three straight Clearwater points ended the match.
"The girls could have quit that last game and didn't," Eagles coach Terry Small said. "If I can get that type of competitiveness out of them the rest of the year, we'll be fine."