By Chuck Ballaro, SunCoast Sports
FORT MYERS – It’s hard to say that anything is an upset after the first game of the season. Teams usually haven’t shown enough one way or another to warrant the name.
But when you see what the Port Charlotte and Riverdale high school volleyball teams have done in recent years, the Pirates straight set victory (25-11, 25-18, 25-19) over the Raiders could qualify.
Time will tell if that was an aberration, but on Monday night, the Pirates, which have struggled in recent years, put their foot on the gas and never gave the usually tough Raiders a chance to catch up.
Port Charlotte coach Kevin Krause said it was his team’s serve that set the tone for the night, none more so than his daughter Macenzie, who had 13 points off serve, six aces and 15 digs.
“We served tough, especially Macenzie. I was very impressed. We played a very good team tonight and was happy with the way we served,” Kevin said.
Port Charlotte (1-0), which never trailed at any point, got off to a quick start thanks to Krause’s serve. She had three quick aces on her opening serve of the match to give the Pirates a huge early lead that the Raiders could not overcome.
That set a pattern that was replicated in the final two games, with Riverdale (0-2) able to close the gap to four points late before running out of time and points.
“We wanted to come out serving aggressive because that’s the key for the whole game. Serving and passing are the most important parts, without them, we can’t play aggressively,” Macenzie said. “When we serve tough, we have a really good offense.”
The Pirates spread the wealth. Alicia Kowalski also had a big service night with 10 points on serve and three aces and eight digs.
Laticia Nina had 10 kills and Kiersten Tisdale had nine for the Pirates.
To be fair to Riverdale, which has built an excellent program over the last decade, this is a rebuilding team. There are no senior hitters and most of the leaders they had last season are gone from Roni Hipp’s Raiders.
“What happened was graduation. We lost six seniors from last year and we don’t have the offense we used to have,” Hipp said. “We have a lot to work on offensively and it’s been an uphill battle.”
Port Charlotte took advantage, and did it with a swagger not seen in a while.
“Port Charlotte has always been the school people push to the side. I don’t think we’re going to be that way anymore,” Macenzie said. “It’s the character of the girls, everyone on this team loves each other so much and we’re all dedicated.”