Shelby Beisner’s 21 kills wasn’t enough to beat Laticia Nina and Port Charlotte at home on Tuesday, as the Pirates took the first matchup of this year’s rivalry with Charlotte in four sets.
Beisner led the Tarpons’ (7-4) attack, crushing kills from the back line and at various angles at net. However, it was the team that had several offensive options in Port Charlotte (8-1) that had the energy at the end.
“It’s really important (to have options) because they’re not ganging up on one person,” Port Charlotte head coach Kevin Krause said. “I think we did a good job of spreading the ball around tonight.”
The Pirates seized the momentum in the first set, jumping out to a 16-9 lead in front of a packed gymnasium at Port Charlotte High School. When the Tarpons cut the deficit to four, Azyah Dailey came through with back-to-back blocks to help Port Charlotte claim the set 25-21.
“First set, we made a lot of errors,” Charlotte head coach Michelle Dill said. “They served us off the court. I’m glad we came back and did a little bit better and got back in the rhythm.”
Already leading 4-2 in the second set, Beisner took her play to the next level, diving to the floor for a pair of digs before rattling off a kill to make it 5-2 Charlotte. Junior libero Eva Le then ripped three consecutive aces, leading the Tarpons on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 11-2.
“She was hitting exactly where I told her to hit,” Dill said of Le. “She was focused back there. She has a good little jump float. She was just on point.”
The Tarpons also played strong defense in the second, not allowing the Pirates to record a kill until Alani Qualls earned the first at the 15-11 mark.
“That second set came down to passing,” Krause said. “We didn’t pass well and they served really well. We spend most of our practices in serve-receive and it wasn’t good that game.”
Beisner kept her team ahead in the second with powerful hitting, notching eight of her 21 kills in that set.
“She just played a little bit smarter but our passing was also better,” Dill said. “She is definitely hitting a lot harder, which comes from playing club and playing year-round.”
With the match even at one set each, Port Charlotte found their go-to hitter in sophomore Laticia Nina. Nina led the Pirates with 14 kills, nine digs and three aces. Nine of her 14 kills came in the final two sets, taking swings that handcuffed the Tarpons and matched Beisner’s power and precision.
“She can do it all,” said Krause. “Passing, defense and serving (are her strengths). She can do everything.”
Nina, senior Mckenzie Stewart and libero Zoe Burkhart combined on seven Port Charlotte aces in the third to take the pivotal set 25-21.
Beisner and the Tarpons made a few attack errors in the fourth to fall behind 17-11. While Ashleigh Miller (five kills) and Skylar Gribben (five kills, five digs) showed some fight to keep Charlotte in it, the Pirates closed out the fourth, taking the first matchup from their arch rival.
“I thought we played really well,” Krause said. “Half our team is sick so I didn’t know if we were going to have enough energy for tonight our girls did so good, the whole team did awesome.”