By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Shelby Beisner is typically a top performer for Charlotte High School’s volleyball team, but she found a way to elevate her game Tuesday night.
In a Region 7A-3 quarterfinal match against Clearwater, Beisner’s match-high 14 kills led the Tarpons to a three-set sweep, 25-20, 25-11, 25-19.
“It’s a pretty great win,” Beisner said. “When we play harder teams, I feel like I play better all around. I feel like that’s one of the stronger things about me. When there’s competition, I step up and play my best.”
Beisner served Charlotte (24-3) to an 8-0 lead against the Tornadoes (14-11) to begin the third set, which allowed the Tarpons to cruise to the victory that ended the match.
But that wasn’t her biggest contribution of the night. The sophomore had 11 kills in the first two sets, and they came at crucial times. In the first set, Beisner had six kills to go along with six digs, as she put it on her shoulders to get Charlotte off on the right foot.
“I wanted to start strong, and get the first game out of the way to move on to the next, Beisner said. “I didn’t want to go to four (sets) tonight. I just wanted to get it over with.
“Running to the middle, cheering, and then running back to the line (after a serve) is one of the better feelings. I serve as soon as they blow the whistle to try to throw them off, so getting aces and points off of that is pretty great.”
Despite three kills from Emily Vaughn in that first set to give Charlotte a 5-4 lead, Clearwater’s game plan of attacking Jessica Moore to disrupt the passing game of the Tarpons worked for a short time.
It was 14-14 in the first set, thanks to seven combined kills from Clearwater’s strong middle hitters Rachel Pohl and Olivia Jones.
Charlotte coach Michelle Dill made a strategic change, which paid dividends for her team.
“Because they’re so tall and reach really high, they go over our blocks,” Dill said. “So we pinched in our right-side defense, and had our right side picking up any tips off behind the blocks, and then our left back was playing regular defense.”
The switch allowed Moore to naturally set up her teammates for kills, finishing the night with 36 assists. She also had four kills, including the match-sealing winner to close out the night.
Vaughn and Skylar Gribben each had nine kills in the win. Gribben also tied Kaitlyn Chavarria to lead the team with three blocks. Kaylee Brannon had a team-high 14 digs.
For the Tornadoes, Pohl and Jones combined for 15 kills and three blocks. Abbey Tess had 10 digs.
Next up for the Tarpons is a regional semifinal match against Osceola. Charlotte defeated them in the opening round of the playoffs last year, with a three-set 25-19, 25-11, 25-18 win.