By Chuck Ballaro, Sun correspondent
PORT CHARLOTTE — After committing a basketful of service errors against Golden Gate, the Port Charlotte High School volleyball team spent a lot of time cleaning up that part of the game.
It paid off against DeSoto County on Monday, as the Pirates scored some important points late to beat the Bulldogs 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-14) in a non-district contest, earning s\a measure of revenge after an early-season five-set defeat in which they committed 21 hitting errors.
With Port Charlotte trailing the all-important second game 23-22, sophomore Maddie Odenweller came up with three huge serves to earn the Pirates the win, then served the key early run and the final game that broke things open.
“Our serving in the clutch didn’t follow through against Golden Gate. We stressed that at practice and we worked on it,” Port Charlotte coach Christine Burkhart said. “We let them know how important it is to get those serves in.”
“We didn’t have many service errors and we served them harder,” Odenweller said. “When I go back to serve, I try to get one point at a time and it helps me get those serves in.”
It helped Port Charlotte (5-16) break open a close first game as freshman Zoe Burkhart served a 9-0 run, as well as give the Pirates an early six-point lead in the second game.
But DeSoto (5-14) rallied to take the lead with a 7-0 run on junior Shea Lipe’s serve. From there, the game see-sawed, with six lead changes and nine ties before Lipe served the Bulldogs to a 23-22 lead, setting up Odenweller’s heroics.
The Pirates never trailed in the final game as Burkhart ,who added 12 digs, and fellow freshman Kiersten Tisdale took control.
DeSoto coach Laura White said this scenario has played out too much this season, adding the Pirates were much better this time around.
“That’s been the story of the season. We’re up and down, get a lead and let a team come back and try to hold the lead,” White said. “Port Charlotte played much better and put together some good hitters and didn’t put the ball on the ground. We were too passive and stood on our heels waiting for the ball to come to us.”
Tisdale had nine kills and 10 digs while Sanantha Dibene also had nine kills and three aces. McKenzie Stewart led with 13 assists and four aces.
DeSoto was led by junior Malyssa Jeter’s six kills and 12 assists. Hannah Lamb had 16 digs.