ORLANDO — When Plant makes it a point to have fun on the volleyball court, good things usually happen.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon when four-time defending state champion Plant overcame a sub-par performance in Game 1 to sweep Orlando Olympia 25-23, 25-15, 25-14, in a Class 6A region final. In posting its third consecutive region playoff sweep, Plant (22-6) advanced to Friday’s state semifinals.
“When I called our first timeout, I didn’t think we were having fun out there,” Plant coach Leanna Taylor said. “…Olympia was definitely playing hard in the first game. They were playing not to lose. But we came together.”
Plant can thank star outside hitters Alex Johnson, a Georgetown commit, and Tina Catanach, a Loyola commit, for turning things around. Johnson was ferocious at the net, registering 17 kills and helping the Panthers hold on in Game 1.
Plant then took charge in the second game behind Catanach, who repeatedly burned the Titans (19-11) with kills from the left side of the net and finished with 15. The Panthers used a 9-3 run to take a commanding 15-6 lead and led by as many as 11 points down the stretch.
“We were a little bit nervous at the start,” Catanach said. “We had to come together. We did a good job spreading the ball around.”
Plant three times rallied from two-point deficits in Game 3, taking the lead for good on an ace by Paige Tuttle. Tuttle also had five solo blocks for the Panthers, who built a 12-point lead at one point in closing out the match.
“We didn’t really do what we wanted to do, defensively,” Olympia coach Mitch Sadowsky said. “We didn’t adjust as we would have liked.”
For Plant, a potential 10th state championship awaits.
“We’re definitely going for another one,” Catanach said.