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Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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Volleyball roundup: Plant advances to regional final

PALM HARBOR - The No. 9 nationally ranked Plant volleyball team took a step closer to reaching the state tournament on Tuesday with a 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 win over Palm Harbor University in the Class 6A-Region 3 semifinals. Plant will play gost to Orlando Dr. Phillips in the regional final on Saturday at 2 p.m. Senior outside hitter Maddie Martin surpassed 1,000 career kills Tuesday, reaching the milestone on a kill in Game 2 that gave her team a 21-11 lead. "I was surprised," said Martin, who needed 14 kills entering the match to reach 1,000. "(Plant coach Leanna Taylor) told me I was getting close. It snuck up on me." Martin led Plant (26-1) with 18 kills, and senior middle hitter Leah Jordan added 10 kills and seven blocks. Liberos Ali McCurdy and Katie Daorai finished with 12 digs each.
"We're definitely in postseason mode," Taylor said. "We're at the point of the season where we're playing well, but there are still some things I don't want to see, like balls on the floor." Palm Harbor (23-3) led 10-7 in Game 3 until Plant rallied to score 13 consecutive points, aided by the serving of junior hitter Alex Johnson. "Palm Harbor played with a lot of energy," Martin said. "They snuck some points on us when we lost focus." Nick Williams 5A-Region 3 TARPON SPRINGS -- Heading into Tuesday's Class 5A-Region 3 semifinals, Clearwater had lost nine matches - three of them to East Lake. But the Tornadoes figured out the District 11 champions at the most opportunistic time as Clearwater downed East Lake 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 to advance to Saturday's region final at Venice. "We knew where they had some advantages," Clearwater coach Joe Dixon said. "We thought their serve was more aggressive, so we worked on making our serve aggressive. We thought our blocking was suspect so we worked on blocking. These girls worked hard Saturday. They came and worked 3
1/2 hours and gave up a lot of stuff on a Saturday morning for this moment." The blocking practice paid off. The Tornadoes (18-9) scored 11 points off blocks, led by Carrie Froelicher and Jennifer Opper with three each. Leah Mitchell and Nikki O'Rourke led Clearwater with 11 kills each. Brittany Estes led East Lake (23-5) with 12 kills. Clearwater never trailed in any game after reaching 13 points, although in Game 1 the Tornadoes led 22-18 and allowed the Eagles to cut the lead to 24-23 before a kill by Opper ended the game. In Game 2 Clearwater took the lead at 11-10 but the score was tied three times, including 23-23. East Lake hit the ball out of bounds for one point and Mitchell recorded a block for the winning point. Game 3 was never really in doubt, although East Lake was able to cut its deficit to two (23-21). But following a Clearwater timeout, kills by O'Rourke and Mitchell sent the Tornadoes to the region final. Rick Harmon 5A-Region 2 SEFFNER -- Armwood went up against the old sports adage that it's hard to beat a good team three times in a season. And unfortunately for the Hawks, the third time it faced Newsome was in Tuesday's region semifinal. The Wolves decisively took the first two games and, after a two-game comeback by the Hawks, turned the pressure back on to win a deciding Game 5 and advance to Saturday's region final. Newsome won 25-15, 25-14, 20-25, 29-31, 15-8. "We weren't going to lose this one, not at all," senior Hillary Byrd said. "We knew they were going to come out strong, but I feel like we pushed harder in this match. We've been preparing for this match since Day 1." The Wolves took advantage of some serving errors by Armwood and played smart to take the first two matches behind solid net play from Byrd, Lauren Zellmer and Jonni Raga. Senior Emilee Taylor led Armwood to wins in the next two games. Taylor struggled in the first two games, but Wolves coach Kate Correa said she expected the opposing outside hitter to keep Armwood in it. "We knew that Taylor was going to get her kills," Correa said. "I decided we weren't going to try to block her the whole time and just take advantage ... when she rotated to the back." Jarrett Guthrie 4A-Region 2 HUDSON -- In a nutshell, all Hudson needed was a solid offensive attack and a sturdy front-line defense to advance past Nature Coast during the Class 4A-Region 2 semifinals. Only it wasn't that easy as the Sharks forced a Game 5 in Hudson's 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 16-25, 15-6 victory. The Cobras (24-3) never held a commanding advantage in Games 1 and 2, but timely kills by Cara Carley, Lacey Carley and Jessica Imbimbo pushed them ahead each time. Nature Coast (21-9) wrested the momentum in Game 3 when a Hudson hitting error gave the Sharks an 18-16 edge. Consecutive kills by Courtney Liddle opened the chasm. Gabby Bienkowski's kill ended Game 3.
Toward the end of Game 4 was when Hudson's blocking began to accompany its attack. Also, Hudson libero Jessica Christenson was cleaning practically everything hit her way. In Game 5, front-row players Lisa Kerns, Shannon Zasloff and Imbimbo began taking away Nature Coast's hitters, forcing them to redirect their shots. Katy McGee led the Cobras with 11 kills, followed by Cara Carley with 10. Nature Coast was led by Liddle's 26 kills and Alex Livengood's 21. Eddie Daniels 3A-Region 3 TAMPA -- Despite some early bad omens, Berkeley Prep topped Clearwater Central Catholic in straight sets to advance to the Class 3A region final. Before the match, setter MacKenzie Dagostino hit a shot that bounced off the wall at the far side of the Berkeley Prep gym, knocking off the banner that lists all 12 state championships the Bucs have won, not to mention countless other honors. The banner stayed down throughout the game. It didn't matter. The Buccaneers routed CCC, 25-13, 25-13, 25-12 and will meet undefeated Bishop Verot in Fort Myers on Saturday. The Bucs have never lost to Bishop Verot and have advanced in the playoffs in two of the past three years after wins at Bishop Verot. "They are a good team, but we've had success against them," Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said. "We are playing well right now and we'll give them a good match." Berkeley Prep's front line, led by Amber Mirabello, Jordan Burgess, Lindsay Young and Chelsea Parker, overpowered CCC. Dagostino had 28 assists, and Burgess and Mirabello each had 10 kills. The Bucs also had 14 blocks at the net. Jeff Berlinicke 2A-Region 3 TAMPA -- It all came down to a fourth game, the hard-fought battle between Tampa Prep (15-10) and Indian Rocks Christian (17-12). Tampa Prep prevailed, 25-20, 21-25, 25-13, 25-23. "I think that's the best match we've played together the entire year," Terrapins coach Michael Flynn said. "We were being disciplined, we were in the right spots, we were making the right plays." Tampa Prep won the first game 20-25, but lost the second game 25-21. Flynn has seen his team be in the same situation in the past and thinks the experience was a good one for his team. Once the Terrapins decided that losing wasn't good enough, there was no stopping them. Tampa Prep took the next two matches, 25-13 and 25-23. Senior setter Caroline Dillabough had 36 assists, five kills and two aces. Latora Lofgren and Ericka McGriff each had 13 kills. Alicia Pack 2A-Region 3 ST. PETERSBURG -- Northside Christian is one step from the Class 2A state tournament after a convincing win over Fort Myers Evangelical Christian, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22. Only once did it appear Evangelical Christian would challenge the host Mustangs, and that was in the third came when it held a 20-17 lead. Evangelical Christian's lead began to vanish when Kayla Walton boomed a spike to the floor. Evangelical Christian was whistled for carrying the ball, and a tip by Walton tied the score at 23. Kayla Turner's block gave Northside the lead, and a service ace by Katie Traina was the match-winning point. "We were on a little bit of a roller coaster and became complacent, and then they fought back," Northside Christian coach Kelly Jackson said. Walton added 21 kills. Kayla Turner had 11 digs. Lee Diekemper 1A-Region 2 TAMPA -- Gabrielle Fernandez said she didn't feel a thing, "except adrenaline," which was bad news for Bradenton Christian in Tuesday night's region semifinal. Fernandez, a junior outside hitter who hadn't played or practiced in three weeks because of throbbing tendinitis in her right shoulder, jumped high, swung hard and was a big reason Bayshore drove a season-ending spike in the Panthers. Fernandez even came up with the final point, an ace on a jump serve to seal a 25-19, 26-24, 25-18 victory. It improved the Faith Warriors' season record against Bradenton (23-6) to 4-1, improved Bayshore to 16-11 overall and advanced it to Saturday's region final. "It was scary while we waited to see how (Fernandez) was," Bayshore Christian coach Melanie Humenansky said. "But her being out also helped us. Some younger players stepped up and really got better (in Fernandez's absence)." Scott Purks 1A-Region 3 ST. PETERSBURG -- Olivia Yeager had 17 kills to lead Cambridge Christian to an upset of Canterbury, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19. Cambridge lost both previous meetings this season, but "we never believed we couldn't (win)," Coach Dave Wolcott said. "The most important part is going out and believing you can do it." Amber Rubright had 10 kills and two aces for Cambridge, and Melissa Olsson had three aces.
Mansie Hough led Canterbury with 10 kills, 11 digs and three aces. Greg Jenssen
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