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Region volleyball: Past helps Tampa Prep in the present

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Tue. October 29, 2013 | Kelly Parsons

TAMPA — Tampa Prep has competed against nine other teams since the first time it beat Academy of the Holy Names this season.

But, more than a month later, that match against the Jaguars plays through the Terrapins’ minds.

In Tampa Prep’s 25-14, 25-23, 25-9 Class 3A region quarterfinal win against Lakeland Christian on Tuesday, the lesson it learned in that come-from-behind win against Holy Names helped the Terrapins dominate.

Since that Sept. 24 five-set match, Tampa Prep has won 11 of its past 12 matches. Whenever they fall behind, outside hitter Corey Perkins said, the Terrapins remember that turning point.

“We’re like, ‘Let’s just think of the Academy game, when we were down two sets and we came back,’ ” she said. “We can do this now.”

In the second set against the Vikings, the Terrapins were forced to channel that motivational memory.

With the help of six kills from Perkins, Tampa Prep (16-10) won the first set easily. But in the second, coach Andrew Wilson said, his team became too relaxed. The Vikings led the Terrapins until a Lakeland Christian (16-10) hitting error tied the score at 19. Perkins, who finished with a team-high 21 kills, had two in the final five points, and the Terrapins eked out a win.

Before the match, Tampa Prep set a goal to hold its opponent to fewer than 15 points. It did so in two of the three sets, but the second nagged Wilson even after his team sealed the match with a dominant 25-9 win in the third.

In his postgame talk with the team, Wilson warned against getting too confident when up early. But on the bright side, he said, watching his Terrapins fight back and still win a heavily contested set is proof of how far they’ve come.

“Last year we couldn’t do that. If we got behind, we struggled,” he said. “I’d just rather play in front than from behind.”

7A: Steinbrenner gets another crack at Durant
LUTZ — After Steinbrenner dominated the first two games in Tuesday’s Class 7A region quarterfinal with Plant City, the Warriors started to look ahead to a showdown with unbeaten Durant.

That’s when Warriors coach Laura Stegenga called timeout to remind her club about the third-game letdown last week that prevented them from sweeping Wiregrass Ranch for the district championship.

“It wasn’t as sweet of a victory having to go out and play that fourth game,” Stegenga said.

So her Warriors (21-3) took care of business, rallying from a seven-point deficit to earn a 25-11, 25-11, 25-23 sweep.

Although the sweep was in jeopardy, a Steinbrenner victory never was after the Warriors dominated the first two games.

“We just came out with a fire, and it showed in the first two games,” senior outside hitter Rachel Mathison said.

But Plant City (18-10) doused the flames in the third. The Raiders jumped out to an 18-11 lead behind a series of Steinbrenner errors and one of Emily Fry’s four kills.

The Warriors responded with four consecutive points after Stegenga’s timeout. Mathison had three kills and an ace in the final seven points to lift her Warriors to the region semifinals for the fourth consecutive year and give them another chance to knock off Durant.

Steinbrenner challenged the Cougars in their September meeting at a tournament before the fifth game slipped away, 15-13. The Warriors are 9-0 since that defeat.

“Now we’re just on a different track,” Mathison said, “and we know how to take all that momentum forward.”

Mathison led Steinbrenner with 19 kills and 15 digs. Lauren Heldt and Avery Bradshaw both contributed eight kills, and Casey McLean and Madison Powell each added 14 digs. Senior Alex Arnold led Plant City with eight kills.

7A: Unbeaten Durant sweeps Wiregrass Ranch
DURANT — The Durant Cougars devoured the Wiregrass Ranch Bulls in Class 7A region action Tuesday night.

The Cougars (27-0) blasted out of the slips, cruising to a 25-16 win in the first set only to complete the sweep with 25-20 wins in both the second and third sets.

The home-court advantage played out 30 minutes before the match began as the Durant student section built up the gym to fever pitch after the first Cougar point.

Kelsey Morton and Madison Adkins were on fire for the Cougars in the first set. Morton scored her first of four kills to make it 6-3 Durant, and Adkins bagged four of her match-high seven kills in that first set.

“I’m really proud of her (Adkins); she grew as a player tonight,” Cougar coach Brittany Wade said.

Senior hitter and Ole Miss commit Lexi Thompson took her hits — but took them to her body. In the first set, Thompson hit the post coming down from a jump. In the second set, Thompson collided with a teammate’s knee. And in the third set, Thompson jammed her left wrist diving after a ball.

“(Getting injured) actually makes me madder, helps me step it up,” Thompson said.
Thompson notched seven kills, digging out multiple serves and shots off the back line and saving several balls to keep points alive.

Teammate Victoria Fanning logged seven kills of her own, including the final point of the match.

The Cougars have a full week to prepare for their region semifinal showdown with Steinbrenner, which beat Plant City. The 24-3 Warriors have only lost one game to a Hillsborough County team this year — a 3-2 loss to Durant on Sept. 21.

5A: Playoff run in the making?
TAMPA — Two seasons ago, Robinson was a postseason neophyte having broken an eight-year slump of missing out on regionals. Now, the Knights could be considered playoff veterans.

Robinson, which has won its district three years in a row, made the region finals last season before bowing out to perennial power Merritt Island.

This year the Knights feel they can go even farther. They took the first step Tuesday, dispatching Bradenton Southeast 25-17, 25-12, 25-14 in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.

“The goal last year coming in was let’s get to the regional finals, and we did just that,” Robinson second-year coach Christen Garcia said. “So it was a huge accomplishment. …That showed a lot about where this program can head and that we can compete with those teams. Now our goal is to make it to states.”

Robinson (12-13) utilized a strong serving game to sweep the Seminoles (6-18). Six players recorded an ace for the Knights, and the team had 19 overall. Leading the way was sophomore Catia Sleet with seven aces, including four in a span of six points during an 11-point Robinson run that put Game 2 out of reach.

“Serving is one of the most important parts of volleyball,” Sleet said. “It’s been one of our strengths this season.”

The opening game was tight until Robinson’s Kylee Gorngpratum rattled off three straight aces to give the Knights an 8-3 advantage. Southeast never got within three points of the lead again.

Holding a 12-10 lead in Game 3, Robinson won nine of the next 11 points. Gorngpratum served two more aces — she had six total — to close out the match.

Senior middle hitter Lauren Wheatley recorded a team-high nine kills and three blocks to pace a balanced Knights attack. Sleet had seven kills, and Lauren Peterson and Meghan Byrd each added five.

“We’ve been trying to get the ball to our middle and our right sides, and it’s starting to show,” Garcia said. “We’re not relying on just our outside hitters to carry us, which is what we kind of did last year. We’re becoming more dynamic and spreading our offense.”

Robinson next hosts Bradenton Bayshore, which rolled past Middleton 25-8, 25-16, 25-5. Tuesday was the first region appearance since 1987 for Bayshore.

2A: Lancers come together  
Cambridge Christian coach Dave Wolcott said he didn’t have much of a voice left after what he called an epic 25-19, 25-16, 25-19 region quarterfinal win over Bayshore Christian on Tuesday.

“We passed as a team. We dug and fought as a team. We hit as a team,” he said. “We had several girls stand out, but we played as a team.”

Grace Nelson led the Lancers (13-14) with 22 kills, and Veronica Hubbard had a team-high 22 digs. What Wolcott was especially proud of, however, was Katherine Dykes’s 50 assists — evidence of entire team involvement.

The rivals split their regular-season meetings, each winning 3-1. Wolcott said he doesn’t ever remember his team sweeping Bayshore Christian (15-13), a team that, just last week, beat Keswick Christian 3-0 for the Class 2A, District 8 championship.

“It’s a signature win,” Wolcott said,  “there’s no doubt to that fact.”

Cambridge gets a district final rematch with Tampa Bay HEAT, which beat Keswick Christian 26-24, 25-15, 25-22.

Staff writer Matt Baker and correspondents Bryan Burns and Andy Warrener contributed to this report, which uses information from the Bradenton Herald.

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