By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — It took a loss in the second set Tuesday night for the Charlotte Tarpons to wake up and play closer to their potential.
And boy, did they wake up.
After splitting the first two sets with Cardinal Mooney, Charlotte won the final two in convincing fashion to win its season opener at home 25-19, 24-26, 25-15, 25-13. The Tarpons only trailed briefly in the third and led wire-to-wire in the fourth to pull away from the Cougars.
Shelby Beisner was in mid-season form, delivering a team-high 14 kills to go with 17 digs. Alani Qualls and Emily Vaughn were also big on offense, scoring 10 kills apiece.
Kaitlyn Chavarria also contributed with nine kills and 12 digs while Skylar Gribben was key defensively with a team-best 21 digs. Abby Hayse helped out with 19 digs.
“I definitely think we played up and played well,” Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “I want to play these teams to help us out in future matches so the girls played up. I definitely saw a lot of good things. On offense we were a little bit shaky in the first game but we looked good.”
A loss in second set proved to be the ultimate motivator for the Tarpons.
The Cougars jumped out to an 8-3 lead and never trailed, but they gave the Tarpons plenty of chances to take the set from their grasp. Charlotte rallied all the way back to tie the set at 23-23 and had a chance to take the lead, but Vaughn’s kill attempt soared just out of bounds to put Cardinal Mooney back up a point.
A violation by the Cougars tied the set back up at 24-all, but a Charlotte shot into the net and another shot out of bounds gave Cardinal Mooney the thrilling frame.
“I think we just started flat-footing (in the second set),” Dill said. “We missed a couple of serves in a row and we let them get in a rhythm. They were hitting the ball and we couldn’t stop them. But once we started getting back in the swing of things, we definitely got in a groove, starting catching up and finished it.”
Finished it they did.
After falling behind 4-2 in the third, Charlotte went on a 5-0 run that saw an ace from Kaitlyn Hooper, a block by Qualls and a kill by Vaughn to go ahead 7-4. The Tarpons never trailed again thanks to four kills each from Beisner and Qualls.
Qualls was her own wrecking crew to finish the set, delivering three kills and a block for four of Charlotte’s final five points.
Another kill by Beisner started a 6-0 run to kick off the fourth set and the Tarpons were never threatened.
“We came over to the side at the end of the second set and said we just got to push and get going. That’s what we did,” Beisner said.