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Tornadoes cruise into region final

The victory sets up a match against Venice, the sixth postseason meeting between the teams since 1994.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published October 30, 2005


CLEARWATER - In its most complete match of the season, Clearwater beat Bradenton Manatee on Saturday 25-17, 25-20, 25-13 to advance to next week's region championship.

But the Tornadoes won't be playing who they thought.

Instead of a chance to play the No. 1 team in the state, the Tornadoes (19-2) get an opportunity for something even sweeter - revenge.

No. 4 Venice stunned top-ranked Plant in its region semifinal and faces Clearwater, setting up the sixth postseason meeting between the teams since 1994.

The Indians have won the past three meetings, including victories in the region semifinals the last two years.

The good news may be that Venice graduated Lisa Hough and Danielle Durham, who had field days against the Clearwater front line in those playoff matches.

Even better news might be the way the Tornadoes are playing heading into Thursday's rematch, as evidenced by their thrashing of Manatee.

Kristin Fisher had 10 kills, Eileen Case had nine and Kelsey Salava eight as the Tornadoes trailed just once all match.

"That's really different for us," said Salava, who also had a team-high 15 assists. "Usually we get a lead and then the other team comes back. But today we really put it all together as a team. Coach has been telling us all year we need to all have our best match on the same night, and we're definitely getting closer to that."

Manatee coach Susan Rigo reeled off a litany of excuses for her team's play, most prominently a late arrival due to bus problems and not enough time for her team to warm up. She also criticized the officiating.

"I don't think we got off the bus completely," Rigo said. "We weren't moving our feet ... (because) we didn't get enough time to warm up."

But Manatee (24-5) never adapted to Clearwater's perfectly placed serving and its own poor receiving, which left the offense sputtering and unable to get the ball to imposing 6-foot-2 middle hitter Kim Kern.

When the Hurricanes did, Kern was nearly unstoppable. Those instances were few and far between, however, and Manatee made a host of other mistakes, such as four consecutive serving errors when it was rallying in the opening game.

Meanwhile, Clearwater had no trouble finding its best players. Salava had two kills to end the first game, Fisher blocked Kern to end the second and after Eileen Case won a joust to set up match point, Channing Salava drilled a kill down to end it.

"I think we were quicker and a little bit smarter," said first-year coach Tracey Sedely. "We came out really strong, which is rare for us, and just played that way all match."