By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Fifth-set tiebreakers have not been the Pirates’ friend this season.
That was the case again Thursday night.
Golden Gate defeated Port Charlotte 25-17, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 on the road, handing the Pirates their 12th loss in a tiebreaker this season.
“It’s kind of par for the course with our group. It’s like our resounding theme,” Port Charlotte coach Christine Burkhart said.
Neither team led by more than two points in the final frame and the Pirates built a 12-10 lead to put themselves in great position to pull out the win. But the Titans scored five of the last six points in the tiebreaker, which included three Port Charlotte hitting errors, to hand the Pirates another heartbreak.
Kiersten Tisdale led the Pirates (4-16) with 20 kills but it was a balanced effort by the Titans (13-5) that led them to victory. Delaney Groos led Golden Gate with 12 kills but she also had plenty of help on offense from Bailee Raimer (10 kills), Cassie Desir (nine kills) and Carlin Palmer (eight kills).
It was another tough loss for the Pirates but Burkhart pointed to an instance earlier in the match that came back to hurt her squad in the end. That came in the opening set, when the Pirates fell behind 7-0 right off the bat and never led.
That put Port Charlotte in catch-up mode the rest of the match.
“It’s mainly not about the tiebreaker, what happens is them not coming out in the beginning,” Burkhart said. “They’re a very competitive team so when they get behind, that’s when they really fight harder but they really need to do that from the beginning.”
Tisdale was key in both the second and fourth sets. She posted six kills and two aces in the second and was responsible for the final three points of that set to even the match.
After the Titans took the third set, which saw the Pirates blow a 13-8 lead, Tisdale rallied Port Charlotte from a 14-4 deficit. She had an 8-0 run on her own side out that gave the Pirates a 22-20 lead that eventually evened the match at two sets apiece.
Without Tisdale, who knows if the Pirates would’ve won a single set.
“If we didn’t have Kiersten? Is that what you’re asking me? I don’t even want to think about that thought,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart then knocked on wood, hoping nothing happens to Tisdale as the Pirates try to find their winning groove. Port Charlotte is already without setter McKenzie Stewart, who is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Sarah Sutter filled in for Stewart against Golden Gate and posted 34 assists to go along with 10 digs. Zoe Burkhart led Port Charlotte with 29 digs and Tisdale added 17 to go along with her 20 kills.
Celia Baerman also had 10 kills for the Pirates.