By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Fans packed the gymnasium at Charlotte High School for the highly anticipated rivalry match between the Tarpons and Port Charlotte Pirates Monday night.
The crowd was raucous for Charlotte’s home opener, with students screaming and cheering for their home team, and the Tarpons didn’t disappoint, jumping all over the Pirates for a 25-16, 25-8, 25-9 victory.
Emily Vaughn led Charlotte with seven kills, while Shelby Beisner, Michelle Bunch and Kaitlyn Chavarria had five apiece. Kaylee Brannon also added five aces for the Tarpons, who dominated from start to finish.
Charlotte (3-0) never trailed in the match and never allowed Port Charlotte (0-4) to rattle off a run of more than four points, which only happened once in the first game.
“It was important to get the momentum, especially in the first game,” Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “I know they’re nervous being at home for the first time with big crowd against Port Charlotte so it was really important to start out strong, limit our mistakes and play with control.”
The Pirates kept the first game close after falling behind 8-2 early, rattling off four straight points to pull to within 8-6, but never put together a streak of more than two points for the rest of the match. The Tarpons then ran the match, with the first run coming with a 17-13 lead in the first game via some help from the Pirates.
Charlotte scored five points on two shots out of bounds, one into the net and another on a net violation before Ashley Landry served up an ace that woke up the crowd and rattled a young Port Charlotte squad in the process.
After losing the first game, it got worse for the Pirates, with the Tarpons jumping out to a 16-1 lead in the second. Vaughn had three of her kills and Brannon delivered two of her aces during the run as Charlotte took control of the game — and the match.
“I was thinking, ‘this is nice. I can relax. I can relax a little,’” Dill said. “But other than that, I think the biggest thing was we were serving so well and the girls were going to exactly where I told them to serve and they were really focused. I don’t think we missed that many serves.”
The Tarpons also controlled the third game from the onset, taking a 10-3 lead thanks to two more kills by Vaughn. A kill by Nicole Nava and a shot into the net pulled the Pirates to within five but that’s as close as they would get the rest of the way. Port Charlotte handed Charlotte four straight points on errors and never scored consecutive points again.
The loss was the second time this season that the Pirates were swept by an area team. The other two loses were five game sets against Sarasota Christian and DeSoto County.
“I’m more disappointed because we would have a slow start [against Sarasota Christian and DeSoto County] and then come back strong in the end, and tonight we had the opposite,” Port Charlotte coach Christine Burkhart said. “We had a strong start but we couldn’t sustain it for the whole game and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. We have a lot of young kids on the team so we’re learning the mentality where you have to stay at the same level for the entire game.”
The only downer on the night for Charlotte came when Skylar Gribben rolled her ankle after colliding with Beisner as the two chased down the ball during the second game. Gribben was on crutches afterwards and Dill said she would get an x-ray.