PLANT CITY — What didn’t the regular-season finale between Durant and Bloomingdale have Wednesday night?
• The Cougars were trying to finish undefeated against the only team that beat them, way back in the preseason.
• It was a rivalry game.
• It was senior night for Durant.
• And two of the area’s best hitters, Durant’s Lexi Thompson and Bloomingdale’s Karissa Rhoades, squared off.
“It was totally different than just a regular game,” said Cougar senior Kelsey Morton.
In the end, the night belonged to the senior-celebrating, still-undefeated Thompson-led Cougars, who joyously celebrated a 20-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-12, 15-13 victory over the Bulls amid a boisterous group of fans.
Bloomingdale beat Durant in a three-game preseason contest, and while it didn’t count on their record, it still gnawed at the Cougars.
“That was a huge reason why tonight was so huge,” said coach Brittany Wilson. “They did beat us, and we wanted to prove that we could beat them.”
Thompson was spectacular for Durant, now 24-0. The Ole Miss signee banged home more than 40 kills, most of them thunderous shots that caromed off the gym floor, including eight in the final game.
It was only the second time Durant, which swept 19 of its 24 victims, had been stretched to five games this season, though the Cougars were unaffected.
Thompson and Morton, who had a kill and a block, helped the Cougars to a 7-4 lead, but Rhoades had three kills in a Bull run that put Bloomingdale ahead 12-11.
Thompson tied it, and Morton and Madison Adkins teamed up for a huge block that made it 13-11.
Thompson then finished off the Bulls with kills on the 14th and 15th points.
She wasn’t shy about asking for the final few sets from Rachel Rice, nor was Wilson.
“I told Rachel to get her the ball, she is going to get it done for you,” Wilson said.
“Oh, I told her to set me,” Thompson added. “It was a little nerve-wracking when it got to 9-9 and 10-10, but I knew when we got to 14 points, I was like give it to me, I can put this away.”
Bloomingdale freshman Emily Doyle ripped a kill to give the Bulls an early 1-0 lead, and Durant’s Victoria Fanning cracked a kill down the middle in the next game to tie things up.
Rhoades had her best game of the match in the third, picking up 10 kills and two aces as Bloomingdale jumped out to a 14-7 lead and cruised closer to handing Durant its first loss.
But the Cougars dominated the fourth game, setting up Thompson for her final-game heroics.
“She was unbelievable,” said Wilson. “It was probably the best she has played all year. Definitely the best she has played all year.
“She was unstoppable.”