TAMPA — Plant came into this season with a new coach, Vanja Todorovic, and a new lineup after graduating several key seniors from last year’s state runnerup squad.
Needless to say there was a learning curve for the players and the coach that was mixed with perennial high expectations.
So far, so good.
After winning the Class 8A, District 8 final Thursday night — 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 over Wharton — Plant (17-5) again appears poised to make a run at a state championship.
“It’s been a good season and we’ve steadily improved,” Todorovic said. “(Hurricane Irma) threw us a bit of a curveball in the middle of the season, but we’ve adjusted and kept working hard and I feel good about it.”
On Thursday, a familiar star from last year, Tampa Bay Times player of the Camryn Vogler, once again shined brightly, digging and knocking down vicious spikes all over the court.
But there were also several more bright lights, including setters Sarah Moffit and Molly Flemming, sophomore outside hitters Birdie Frierson and Cody Murray and freshman Erin Morrisay — several of whom didn’t get serious playing time until this season.
At no time during the match on Thursday did any Panther, newer or older, seem to lose an ounce of faith, even when Wharton (15-4) clicked off five straight points to cut the gap to 24-22 in the first game.
“Okay that’s enough,” Todorovic said to his team after the Wildcats late first-game run to 22 points. “It’s time to take care of this.”
They did, winning game point with a resounding spike.
“We have to keep up that intensity,” Todorovic said. “I know it’s been a tough week with going to school and playing three (district) matches in four days, but we need to keep that focus.”
Moving forward, the immediate focus is now on hosting a region quarterfinal on Wednesday.
“I think we’re ready to go in the playoffs,” Todorovic said. “This team has great potential.”