By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — If Tuesday’s match between Port Charlotte High School and Ida Baker proved anything, it’s that next week’s rematch is going to be a great one.
The Bulldogs defeated the Pirates 25-18, 22-25 15-19, 13-25, 15-4, setting up another match between the two teams on Monday in the opening round of the District 7A-10 tournament.
“I hope my girls come out from the beginning (next week),” coach Christine Burkhart said. “Now, we’ve seen them. So we know our strategy. Did we play it this last set? No. The good thing is we know exactly what we need to fix from that last set, but we really wanted to be able to host and not travel.”
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 3-3 in District 7A-10, and clinched the right to host Port Charlotte (2-4) as the No. 4 seed, with the Pirates taking the No. 5 seed.
The short-handed Pirates saw McKenzie Stewart and Kiersten Tisdale step up in the absence of Samantha DiBene and Maddie Odenweller.
Stewart had an all-around great match with eight aces, 12 digs, 17 assists and nine kills.
The sophomore came up big in the fourth set when she had three consecutive aces after a Port Charlotte timeout to give her team a 14-7 lead. That was key because from points one through six for each team, they went back and forth trading points keeping it close for the time being.
“I thought McKenzie did really really well,” Burkhart said. “I’m really proud of the way she played.”
Tisdale had four kills and four digs in that fourth set. Her biggest contribution came in the second set, when she took over with five digs and seven kills. She ended the night with a dozen digs and a team-high 17 kills.
The Pirates trailed for much of the second set, but finally tied the game at 19-19. They took a 20-19 lead, and then once they went up 22-21 never gave the lead away.
Zoe Burkhart was also key in the second set where she had eight of her 15 digs.
Port Charlotte started the first set with a 4-0 lead, but the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run to go up 10-4, and eventually brought that to a 20-7 run, as the Pirates trailed 20-11 before grabbing seven consecutive points on Stewart’s serve.
Stewart had a team-high 18 service points on the night.
In that first set, the Pirates had 10 of their 32 errors on the night, and played a fairly clean match in the middle three sets, but mistakes plagued them in the final game.
Other contributors for Port Charlotte were Celia Baermann with six kills, four digs and three blocks. Nicole Nava also had seven digs, three kills and a block.
For the Bulldogs, Amanda Gross had a match-high 24 service points with the help of six aces. She also had 10 digs and seven kills. Alicia Marzullo had 15 digs and eight kills.