CLEARWATER — Both Tarpon Springs and Clearwater Central Catholic were hoping for a competitive match Tuesday night in preparation for postseason tournaments. They got what they wanted.
The Spongers took the first two games, but the Marauders came back to win the final three and take the match 24-26, 16-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-7 on senior night. This was the third straight five-game match for CCC and the fourth this season. The Marauders are now 2-2 in five-game matches.
“This is probably the youngest team that I’ve had,” said CCC coach Stephen Shepherd, who has two seniors on the roster. “So with that, they are up here, and then they’re down here. Every match against good competition has gone five, which is great for us because we are growing quickly.”
The first game was an indication of how things would go the rest of the night. The game was tied eight times with no team holding more than a five-point lead. With the score tied at 24, Spongers outside hitter Mackenzie Dufresne had a kill and CCC had a kill attempt go wide to end the game.
“We had 17 errors in that first game,” Shepherd said. “That’s way too many points to give to a good team.”
Tarpon Springs (15-5) jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the second game behind good net play from Dufresne, Brenna Reinhard and Jill Foster. CCC cut the lead to 9-8, but the Spongers went on an 8-2 run to basically put the game away.
“We had negative energy in the first two games and we talked about getting some positive energy,” said CCC senior Cameron Fitzpatrick. “We picked it up from there and just started fighting harder.”
CCC (7-5) cut down on the errors and pulled away from the Spongers in the third game. Fitzpatrick got a bulk of the kills, and Angela Cuff and Linsey Harrison also playing well. Tarpon Springs had 13 unforced errors in the game.
CCC led by six late in the fourth game, but the Spongers put up a fight with four straight points to cut the lead to 24-23. But a tip by Cuff landed untouched for the final point and fourth a deciding fifth game.
It was tied at six when CCC went on a four-point run highlighted by two Cuff kills and one from Harrison. CCC scored the final six points, the last being a kill by Fitzpatrick, to close out the match.
“I’d rather lose to a good team like this than win over a mediocre team,” Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed said. “A match like this exposes our weaknesses and lets us know what we need to work on.”