TAMPA — Plant didn’t see Thursday’s Class 6A-8 district tournament championship victory over Bloomingdale as anything to celebrate.
No jumping, no yelling, only another trophy to be placed on display among many others. The Panthers have grown to see the district title as a steppingstone.
And Thursday’s three-game win over the Bulls, their third victory over Bloomingdale this year, was much of the same. Plant coach Leanna Taylor said the match, a 25-23, 25-14, 25-16 victory, was the toughest district final in her seven years as coach.
“We knew even the first game we played Bloomingdale their potential,” Taylor said. “We definitely knew that they are only going up. It’s fun to have that kind of competition. You want it. You want it from the top down.”
Plant (19-6) will begin its march toward a fifth straight state championship Tuesday, when the Panthers host Sarasota Riverview in the 6A region quarterfinals.
"We definitely haven’t reached our peak yet,” said senior outside hitter Alex Johnson, who led the Panthers with a match-high 16 kills. “We want to do that at the end of the year.”
Senior outside hitter Tina Catanach had 10 kills, senior Callie Henley added five aces and senior middle hitter Paige Tuttle had three solo blocks.
Plant was close to dropping its first game to a district opponent this season. Bloomingdale (18-6) ran out to a quick 7-3 lead in the Game 1, thanks in part to four uncharacteristic Plant service errors, and played the Panthers point-for-point until Plant pulled away 25-23. The Bulls also led in the second game 6-3 before Plant rallied, suffocating Bloomingdale’s offense on the block.
Senior outside hitter Katie Fife led the Bulls with 10 kills and Danielle Jenkins added seven.
“We played with confidence,” Bloomingdale coach Danielle Leffler said. “I don’t know where they got that from, but I liked it.”