Blind pass, kill proves crucial for Tornadoes

Salava-to-Fisher play helps Clearwater stay unbeaten with 3-2 win over PHU in district showdown.

Published August 29, 2006

CLEARWATER - In what was likely a preview of things to come in Class 5A, District 9 action, Clearwater used an eight-point run in the final game to defeat visiting Palm Harbor University 3-2 (25-20, 21-25, 25-18, 22-25 and 15-11) Monday night.

"Us and Palm Harbor, along with East Lake, are the best teams in the county," Clearwater's Channing Salava said. "I'm sure it's going to be a battle in this district all season long."

And if the match was any indication, it should be a tight district race. It was Clearwater's fourth win in as many matches this season, while both of PHU's (3-2) losses have come to its district rivals (Clearwater and East Lake).

"This was the toughest competition we've had so far this season, so it was good for the team," Clearwater coach Tracy Sedely said. "But we have a long way to go."

Clearwater beat PHU in the district finals last year, but the two teams have a much different look. Both lost four starters and the early season has been spent trying to build team cohesiveness.

"We have a whole new group from last year, so it's a matter of them playing together and learning each other's tendencies," Sedely said. "We've had major changes."

However Clearwater's two returning starters - Kristin Fisher and Salava - provide a formidable nucleus and it was the duo's work that drew the most praise from Sedely.

"I thought Channing ran the court out there," Sedely said. "She and (Fisher) work so well together and we're lucky to have them."

Salava - a setter - had a match-high 59 assists, 11 kills and a pair of aces. Fisher led all players with 17 kills and the duo hooked up on the play that may have changed the match for Clearwater.

Trailing 7-6 in the final game, Salava tracked down a ball by the referee stand, delivered a blind pass to Fisher and the senior middle hitter ripped a ball through the heart of PHU's defense for the tie. The sequence keyed Clearwater's eight-point run and the Hurricanes never recovered.

"That was a huge play," Sedely said. "(PHU) had won game four and had the momentum."

Margo Sultenfuss paced PHU with 13 kills while Mallory Kiley added 10. The Hurricanes' Cynthia Bouldrick led the team with 16 digs and Sydney Miller finished with 36 assists.