Clearwater makes emphatic statement

After losing focus in the second game, Tornadoes regroup to top Bradenton Manatee.

Published October 29, 2006

CLEARWATER - Clearwater coach Tracy Sedely gathered her team Saturday afternoon for a gut-check moment.

The Tornadoes had just lost the second game of their region semifinal against Bradenton Manatee.

The match was tied 1-all, and a young Manatee team had stolen the momentum.

"Do you want this?" Sedely asked the Tornadoes in a timeout. "Go out and prove you want this."

The Tornadoes responded, winning the next two games in beating Manatee 25-9, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21. Clearwater 25-1 now travels to top-ranked Plant on Thursday for the finals, where the Tornadoes will play for their first state tournament berth since 2000.

"We knew we had to bear down," Clearwater junior Channing Salava said. "It was all or nothing."

Salava, once again, was spectacular. The setter racked up 22 assists, five aces and a highlight-reel, diving-dig late in the fourth game. The lanky lefty then popped up and pounded a kill.

"We had no answer for (Salava)," Manatee coach Jessica Hinkle said. "She made plays at pivotal times."

So did Clearwater senior Kristin Fisher, who scored many of her seven kills and five blocks in the critical, third and fourth games.

But it was Clearwater's big blocker near the net, 5-foot-11 junior Kaitlin Posnak, who was the Tornadoes' unsung star.

The sophomore-laden Manatee team moved the ball extremely well, passing to their star hitters, 6-1 Courtney McDonald (10 kills) and Taylor Mealy (12 kills).

Posnak, however, positioned herself well up front, using her long arms to thwart many Manatee attacks. Posnak (seven kills) may often rotate in and out of matches, but her impact, teammates say, is immeasurable.

"She's improved so much," Fisher said. "She's going to dominate for us next year."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8129.