GIBSONTON — Plant City has played Durant five times this season and has yet to beat the Cougars.
How about one more try for the Raiders?
Wednesday at night at East Bay, Plant City rolled over Strawberry Crest and Durant knocked off the host Indians, clinching postseason berths for each and sending both teams to a sixth meeting for the Class 7A, District 7 championship tonight.
The Raiders, who improved to 16-3 against teams not named Durant (16-8 overall) and have won 10 straight matches against teams not named Durant, used a balanced attack in their 25-11, 23-25, 25-17, 25-16 win over the Chargers and advance to the postseason for a school-record third straight season.
Despite splitting the season series, the Raiders were the better team in the first semifinal. Leading 12-11 in the final game, the Raiders used a 7-0 spurt to seize control and set up a chocolate and vanilla sprinkle mini-cupcake celebration for coach Jessie Thornton on her birthday.
Junior Kasi Maguire, a converted hitter playing setter this year for the Raiders, had two kills, an ace and set up Michelle Daubach for a kill in the key run.
“It was a really big transition for me this year, but I think I’ve got the hang of it,” said Maguire, who finished with 35 assists and three kills. “I can kind of play everywhere.”
Alex Arnold led Plant City with 16 kills, while Noelle Dietrich had 10 blocks and libero Danielle Rodriguez added 28 digs.
Thornton said her team’s familiarity with Durant, and the fact they took their first game off the Cougars when they last met Oct. 10, should bode well for the final.
“We know what we’re getting,” Thornton said.
The Raiders will probably get a better version of the Cougars than the group that dispatched the Indians 25-17, 25-11, 25-15.
Durant was listless early, falling behind 6-1. East Bay hung around for a while thanks to some nice net play from East Bay freshman Fabrizia Wade and Lauren Howell.
But the Cougars are 25-0 for a reason, and they merely spread the ball around to Victoria Fanning, Lexi Thompson, Madison Adkins and Kelsey Morton, all of whom seemed to have at least one or two kills every set as Durant coasted.
It wasn’t the high-flying act the Cougars showed off beating Bloomingdale in their season finale, but it was plenty good enough.
Plant City hopes that’s not the case tonight.