By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — It isn’t often that a battle between district unbeatens at this stage of the season is considered a David vs. Goliath match.
But Tuesday’s District 7A-10 matchup between Charlotte and Lemon Bay had that feel. The Manta Rays are the runts of the litter in the district, and with Charlotte coming off a loss this weekend to Riverdale, the Tarpons were feeling a little ornery.
The Tarpons (17-2, 4-0) took out their frustrations on the Manta Rays and took command of their district with a 3-0 (25-7, 25-20, 25-22) win, meaning they need to beat Ida Baker and Cape Coral to take the top seed in the district and earn an opening round bye.
Charlotte put the match away quickly as sophomore Shelby Beisner (eight digs, five aces) ran off 10 straight points on the Tarpons first side out. Kaylee Brannon later served another run to put the first game out of reach.
“We were a little upset from the weekend, so they were trying to refocus and get in the groove,” Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “Shelby and Kaylee gave us some great service games.”
Lemon Bay (9-10, 3-1) played much better in the last two games. With the help of sophomore Caroline Hill and Maddie Taylor, the Manta Rays got to within 17-16 in the second game and briefly led the final game 20-19, but wasn’t able to get back in the match.
Lemon Bay coach Pat Auer has said all season it amazes him that a school the size of Lemon Bay has to play in such district filled with much larger schools, yet has been able to scrap the way it has.
“Charlotte has 700 more kids than we do. They played good. We came out and committed something like 19 errors in the first game, but we settled down and worked hard,” Auer said.
The close games also had something to do with the fact Dill emptied her bench, allowing her underclassmen to get some needed playing time.
“I put in the underclassmen to see what they could do and they did a good job. We finished with them on the court,” Dill said.
Kaitlyn Chavarria led Charlotte with eight kills and four blocks. Brannon had 15 digs and four aces, while Jessica Moore had 19 assists, with sophomore Kelsey Nolan adding 10 assists.
Hill led Lemon Bay with four kills and five digs. Kacee Nelson had six digs.