VALRICO — Somebody forgot to tell Durant that No. 5 seeds aren’t supposed to come in and beat No. 1 seeds on their own floor.
But that’s what the Cougars did to Bloomingdale, coming into a nearly packed gym and downing the Bulls 25-13, 26-24, 16-25, 25-17.
Durant will face Plant tonight in the Class 8A, District 7 final.
“We’ve been practicing so hard, and I can tell you I’ve been really rough on them,” Durant coach Brittany Wilson said. “But it paid off tonight.”
The Cougars, playing again without starting setter Taylor Hackemack, were able to pull away midway through the first game thanks to a 9-0 run spurred by consistent serves by senior libero Payton Sims and four kills from Lexi Thompson. The sophomore outside hitter finished with 13 kills.
Thompson’s serves were the catalyst for the Cougars’ comeback in the second game as well. Down 24-20, she headed back to the line and fired six serves, including two aces, that put Durant ahead for the first time since the game started 1-0. Senior middle blocker Chelsea Bowden notched a kill on the final point.
Bloomingdale rallied to win the third game, and Wilson gathered her team before the next game.
“I told them, ‘If you give them another chance, they are going to take it from you,’ ” Wilson said. “It’s now, or you’re turning your jerseys in tomorrow.”
A victory in Game 4 ensured the Cougars would wear those jerseys against Plant, which swept Wharton 25-18, 25-17, 25-21 in the first match.
“We came and watched (Wharton) last night, and we were prepared,” said Panthers coach Amy Rumore. “I had the girls analyze their offense and defense, so we knew where they were going to be and what plays they ran in what rotations.”
Led by junior Sydney Stasch’s 17 kills and senior libero Kylie Parks’ six service aces, the Panthers made textbook work of the Wildcats.