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Tornadoes have few problems in their victories


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000

NAPLES -- To make its fourth final four appearance in the past five seasons, Clearwater had to travel 200 miles south to Barron Collier High in Naples and play in front of a rowdy crowd.

That was the hardest part. For the Tornadoes, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, the matches were easy. They beat two unranked teams -- Lemon Bay in the semifinals and host Barron Collier in the final -- in two games each to advance to the 4A state tournament, held Thursday to Saturday at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

"There's a lot of experience and maturity with this group," Clearwater coach Lynn Hallmark said. "We have five seniors and a fantastic junior out on the court. They knew coming in here that it was going to be loud, and they still concentrated. A younger or less experienced team might crumble with those type of outside forces."

Against Lemon Bay, the Tornadoes (30-3) were down 8-5 when Hallmark called timeout. That's all Clearwater needed. It scored 10 of the final 11 points and never trailed in the second game, winning 15-9, 15-12.

Then the Tornadoes watched Lakewood play Barron Collier in the other semifinal. The Spartans used crisp serves and solid defense to win the first game. But after taking a 6-1 lead in the second game, Lakewood lost the lead, the momentum and eventually the match, 15-13, 11-15, 10-15.

"This team really came together," Spartans coach Donna Dicus said. "They showed a lot of heart and spirit."

In the final, Clearwater took the crowd out of it early by jumping out to an 11-1 lead in the first game before winning 15-4.

The second game was closer, with Clearwater holding an 11-10 lead late before scoring the final four points, the last coming on a kill by Katy Barber.

Barber, Kelcey Baby and Melissa Johnson each had nine kills to lead the Tornadoes.

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