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Eagles win Lake Gibson title

East Lake's run includes a 15-0 run against Auburndale and a victory over top-ranked Clearwater.

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


LAKELAND -- East Lake coach Terry Small had no expectations at the Lake Gibson Invitational this weekend.

With a team that includes a freshman and three sophomores in the starting lineup, the only thing Small told his players was to go out and have fun.

The Eagles heeded their coach's advice, enjoying a tournament title with a 15-7, 15-7 victory over Palm Harbor University in Saturday's title match.

"I didn't want to worry about wins or losses here," Small said. "This was something we thought would be a chance to just have a good time."

The good times started Friday as East Lake (20-6) swept Pinellas Park and Auburndale in pool play.

In a 15-4, 15-0 win over Auburndale, ranked No. 8 in Class 4A, the Eagles were so dominant that Tammy Zimmerman, the only senior starter, served 15 consecutive points in the second game.

"That was the first time that's ever happened," Zimmerman said of her streak. "We got the first sideout, and I just kept serving and serving. There was no pressure to keep it going. It was pretty fun."

That carefree attitude carried over to Saturday. East Lake swept St. Petersburg Catholic to win its pool then faced Class 4A, No. 1-ranked Clearwater in the semifinals.

The match didn't start well. The Eagles lost the first game then lost middle hitter Ashley Garee to an ankle injury. No matter. East Lake bounced back to win 3-15, 15-11, 15-13.

"We were worried about Ashley," Zimmerman said. "But we knew we still had to go out and play."

Undeterred, the Eagles kept the winning streak going in the championship match, beating the Hurricanes for the third time in four meetings this season. Zimmerman, Nicole Brittenriker and Tiffany Coleman were named to the all-tournament team for East Lake.

"Even though we have a lot of young volleyball players, I wasn't that surprised that we won," Zimmerman said. "We have the talent, and I think we deserved to win. It also was something I think we needed."

In the past week, East Lake has clinched the No. 1 seed in its district for the sixth year in a row and won a tournament title for the second consecutive season (after winning the East Lake Invitational last season).

Tuesday, the Eagles play Countryside in match that will determine who will represent the North in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship match.

"I'm so proud of this team," Small said. "I know the upcoming Countryside match was on their minds. Still, we didn't look ahead. To do what we've done with such a young team, it's amazing."

ALL-TOURNAMENT: Others who made the all-tournament team were: Bilie Massey (Auburndale), Kelsey Baby (Clearwater), Laura Manovill (Dunedin), Ashley Kincaid (Lake Gibson), Kristin Peick (Lakeland), Catherine DuPont (St. Petersburg Catholic) and Candice Dupree (Wharton).

Player of the week:

ERIN DIXON

The 5-foot-8 setter, who is Countryside's only senior, showed her experience as she led the Cougars to a stunning 15-4, 15-6 victory over Clearwater on Tuesday. It was the first time the Tornadoes' senior class had lost at home and the first time Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly had beaten them in her nine years of coaching.

Dixon had a team-high 27 assists as she provided crisp passes to a pair of freshmen -- Katelen Dixon, her sister, and Beverly Stasis. But for Dixon, beating Clearwater isn't that big of a deal. After all, she did it a year ago when she played at East Lake, which coincidentally

This week's best bet

East Lake at Countryside

is the team she plays this week. Dixon played her first two seasons at Countryside, transferred to East Lake last season and now is back with the Cougars for her senior year to play with Katelen.

Remember last week when Countryside played Clearwater? It was supposed to be the match. Scratch that.

Tuesday's battle between the Eagles and Cougars now is the match after both teams beat Clearwater this week. (East Lake did it in three games at the Lake Gibson Invitational. And there are other story lines. Like revenge.

Last season in districts, Countryside beat the No. 1-seeded Eagles in the semifinals, marking the first time in six seasons East Lake didn't advance to the post-season.

This also could decide who represents the North in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship match Saturday. If the Cougars win, they clinch the berth. If the Eagles win, they force a three-way tie with Countryside and Clearwater.

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