TAMPA — By the time Palm Harbor University finally got its act together Tuesday night, the match was out of hand and its season was all but over.
The Hurricanes kept it close at times and were within inches of forcing a fourth game, but Plant proved to be too dominant across the board, sweeping PHU 25-18, 25-12, 27-25 and ending the Hurricanes’ 18-8 year in the Class 6A region semifinals.
“It just took us a while to get started. I’m not sure if it was jitters or over-anxiousness, but they were definitely prepared and ready for the match. It just took us a while to start playing ’Canes volleyball,” PHU coach Tara Kuk said. “I wish we could have started the match with that third set. It would have been a different outcome, for sure.”
Kuk said Plant didn’t give her team any easy opportunities at the net or in the corners. Plant middle blocker Brynne Fruhmorgen racked up 10 solo blocks as part of a Panthers front line that frustrated the Hurricanes all night. Charlotte Hill led Plant with 25 digs and senior outside hitter Alex Johnson added 12.
“I think our defense was amazing. We didn’t let any balls hit the floor,” Johnson said. “If I was them, I would have been really, really frustrated.”
With a 25-24 lead in the third game and setter Caitlin Kovach set to unleash her lethal jump-serve, Kuk said she felt good about her chances of at least extending the match to another game. But Johnson reached out just before the ball hit the floor, keeping it in play and allowing the Panthers to rally and win 27-25.
“I thought it was hitting the ground, but she stuck her hands out just in time,” Kuk said. “Plant definitely played with a lot of heart, and they never once let up.”