By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NAPLES — No matter what Charlotte High School attempted to do Tuesday night, it seemed like Barron Collier had an answer for it.
When the Tarpons tried for a conventional kill, which had worked all season long, the Cougars had someone at the net to deflect the shot. When they went for a tip over those blockers, someone on the back row stepped up for the dig.
Despite that, Charlotte found ways to get points, but just not enough. Barron Collier swept the Tarpons 25-20, 25-19, 26-24 in the Class 7A-3 regional finals.
“We went out with our heads up high, because it was truly a good match,” Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “We fought, we played hard, and we never gave up.”
The Tarpons led at one time in all three sets, but the Cougars scored their points in bunches to keep their season alive.
Emily Vaughn, Kaitlyn Chavarria and Skylar Gribben all had big kills late in the final set, and Michelle Bunch had a block which brought the score to 24-24, but Julie Tanner had three of Barron Collier’s final four points to help her team to a victory.
The match ended on a service ace for Caroline Groenings. Tanner had 10 kills and a pair of blocks, and made a bigger impact for her team than the stats indicate.
“We couldn’t stop their outsides,” Dill said. “They had really good serving, and our service game was a little bit off.”
A kill for Charlotte’s Shelby Beisner in the second set brought the score to 17-16 in favor of the Cougars, but that’s as close as they would get, as one of Tanner’s blocks gave them a 19-16 lead the Tarpons couldn’t overcome.
Charlotte led 11-7 at one point in the second game, after rattling off four straight points on the serve of Gribben, but before you could blink, Barron Collier was leading 14-12.
“We just had to keep mixing up our offense,” Dill said. “We kept telling them to run different plays. They’re a really good team. I’m not disappointed in our season at all. Who would’ve known that we’d come in here and go 25-4, and get back to the regional finals.”
The match was close for nearly the entire night, as a Bunch kill in the first set cut into the Cougar deficit, bringing the Tarpons down 21-10, but that would be the final point they’d earn that game.
Bunch tied for the team lead with Vaughn in kills with eight. Beisner and Chavarria each had six kills. Beisner also had 20 digs, which was second to only Kaylee Brannon’s 23.
Jessica Moore also had 29 assists with her 19 digs. Gribben had five kills and 18 digs.