By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000
TAMPA -- Wednesday's Western Conference Federal Division final proved there is one thing more important than kills, digs and heavy hitting when it comes to championship matches.
Experience turned out to be the key for Sickles as it posted two very different 15-10, 15-9 wins to beat Wharton and advance to Friday's championship.
The Gryphons (10-10) bolted back from a 7-0 deficit in the first game, outscoring the Wildcats 15-3 to end the match. That momentum held up in the second game as Sickles never trailed and used six consecutive service points from Casey Yanson to put the match away.
"I thought this was going to be three games for sure," Sickles coach Rob Brashear said. "The girls just picked it up with their serving and passing. They played a lot of team defense.
"Especially when they were down in the first game and they were able to come back and win. That impressed me. It showed poise and confidence. I was really pleased."
At the beginning of the match, it looked like the Wildcats (14-5) were going to run away with the trip to the final.
Kim Yaney served five consecutive points, including three aces, to start. Sickles answered with consecutive one-serve sideouts, and Wharton built the lead to 7-0.
But poor passing and service returns doomed the Wildcats. It was those passing errors that kept big hitters Nicole Weeden and Candice Dupree from becoming too much of a factor. A strategic move by Brashear didn't hurt, either.
"I saw (Dupree) play last night and decided to move my big blocker, Ashley Greco, around to line her up with Dupree," Brashear said. "I just rotated her around three places. But I think their passing was not that good, and they couldn't get her into it."
And that, Wharton coach Staci Elias said, has been the big problem all season for her team.
"They found our weak spots," Elias said. "We have some inexperienced sophomores that I have to play. I can't find six people to play on the court at the same time. When you play tough teams like this, you have to have more than four people.
"The back row took (Dupree) out of the game. She can't pass and hit when she's not back there on the back. We've got to find something before next week."
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From the wire
From the state sports wire
Baseball Hubert Mizell Tampa Bay Classic Lightning Sports Etc.
Hubert Mizell Tampa Bay Classic Lightning Sports Etc.