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Shorecrest surprises opposition and itself

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000


Shorecrest coach Kathy Sessions stands in wonderment at the her team's turnaround.

"You ask me how we are doing it, and I say, "I don't know,"' Sessions said. "We just keep winning."

The Chargers, 7-14 last season, have won seven of their past eight matches and now are 9-3. The winning stretch started at last weekend's Keswick Invitational, where Shorecrest finished second, its best showing since 1993.

"I think by doing so well at the tournament, it gave us confidence," senior co-captain Carly Zillig said. "We had our hopes up but didn't really know how well we'd do. We played tough, though. We were ready to battle."

Confidence was something lacking last season. It didn't look like it was going to get any better entering this season.

Shorecrest lost Sydney Zillig to graduation, and star player Kelley Bacon decided not to come out for her senior year. Sessions was left with a lineup featuring no player taller than 5 feet 8.

"I certainly had my doubts coming into the season," Sessions said. "A small lineup, losing some key players, those are the type of things that definitely make you concerned."

But the six seniors who came back formed a tight bond. "This year, we're really motivated, and we didn't want to go through another bad season," said Michelle Bailey, the team's other co-captain. "We have a lot of experience, and that helps. We're getting things done."

Teamwork has been the key in wins the past two weeks over St. Petersburg Catholic, East Lake and Keswick Christian, all playoff teams last year.

"The thing you notice with this team is that we play together," Sessions said. "In the past, we've been able to rely on a star player. We don't have that one outstanding player this year. So everybody has to be fundamentally sound to make up for the things we lack.

"The six seniors on this team have come to play and have provided good chemistry."

Now that Shorecrest has surpassed last season's win total, there are other goals, such as a playoff berth.

"We've gone out and proved that we can beat tough teams," Zillig said.

"For us, the sky is the limit."

Player of the week: Carly Zillig

Although small at 5 feet 5, Carly Zillig has come up big for the Chargers in the past week. The senior setter helped Shorecrest to a second-place finish at the Keswick Invitational and was named to the all-tournament team last weekend.

Last week, she picked up where she left off, helping Shorecrest beat Indian Rocks Christian, Keswick Christian and St. Petersburg Catholic. In the match against Keswick, Zillig had five kills, an ace and served the final point of the match.

This week's best bet

Keswick at Countryside

This is a rematch of last weekend's fifth-place match at the Keswick Invitational, which the Cougars won in three games. The Crusaders, a Class A state finalist last season, are sure to be a bit testy Monday after losing three of their past four matches. Countryside, meanwhile, has just one loss and has been cruising.

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