By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Defeating Charlotte is typically a tall task for most volleyball teams.
Just ask Port Charlotte.
Since 2013, the Pirates had lost every match to the Tarpons, but their luck finally changed in Wednesday night’s meeting that didn’t count towards the District 7A-10 standings.
Led by Laticia Nina’s 10 kills and Kiersten Tisdale’s nine kills and six aces, Port Charlotte defeated Charlotte in four sets (25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19) on its home floor to remain unbeaten on the season. Despite losing their first set of the season, the Pirates (4-0) were firing on all cylinders for a majority of the night and came out in attack mode, never trailing by more than a point in the first set and not even once in the second.
“This win was so big for the girls,” Port Charlotte coach Kevin Rouse said. “They’ve had to suffer the beat downs over the years so I’m really happy for them. They just went for it today. I’m really proud of them.”
Shelby Beisner led the Tarpons (3-1) with a match-high 12 kills, but no one else in a Charlotte uniform had more than Emily Vaughn’s seven. Charlotte committed 22 hitting errors compared to just 12 for Port Charlotte.
Beisner tried to hold down the fort defensively with 20 digs, as did Abby Hayse with a match-high 26. But Charlotte’s offense was too inconsistent throughout the night.
“We’d have good passes and then hit the ball out. Then we’d have bad passes. It was just kind of a rollercoaster but we just had a lot of errors,” Charlotte coach Michelle Dill said. “They played very well. I know they’re a young team and I told my girls they’re going to come out with nothing to lose. We won districts last year and we’re the team to beat and they were going to come out strong on us.”
Alicia Kowalski and McKenzie Stewart also had seven kills each for the Pirates while Macenzie Krause had a team-high 21 digs, but serving was the key in the win. Port Charlotte had 15 aces as a team, with Krause, Stewart and Nina all delivering three apiece in addition to Tisdale’s six.
“We served really tough and I told them, ‘Listen, we’re going to miss a serve here and there but just keep attacking,’ because they’ve got really good players. We just had to serve tough and I think we did that,” Rouse said.
Port Charlotte’s only hiccup came in the third set after jumping out to an 8-5 lead. Charlotte responded with a 7-0 run and scored eight of nine to go up 13-9 thanks to two kills and a block by Alani Qualls.
The Pirates never caught up to the Tarpons in the set and fell behind 22-16 before nearly rallying. They put together a 5-0 run to get to within a point before coming up short, but Rouse said their increased intensity carried over into the fourth set.
“I didn’t feel like we played with the same intensity as we did in one and two until the very end of the set,” Rouse said. “I was after them to please play with the same intensity from the start of the set. I told them it’s not yours until you actually go out and do it. You can get nervous and say oh my goodness. You just got to go out and do it so I’m just so happy for these kids.”