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Volleyball: Wednesday morning digs

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Wed. November 11, 2009 | Eduardo A. Encina

We already have the world-renowned Sunday Morning Quarterback full of day-after football fodder. So in our ever-consuming effort to never let the ball hit the floor, here are some tidbits from Tuesday night’s region semifinal volleyball action in Hillsborough County.

-- Plant coach Leanna Taylor said earlier this year that she wanted her team to reach its playoff stride right in time for the region final. If Tuesday’s three-set win over Palm Harbor – arguably Pinellas County’s cream-of-the-crop team – is any indication, they’re right on schedule.

Also, Panthers outside hitter Maddie Martin, my hands-down favorite for county player of the year, registered her 1,000th kill on Tuesday. The Penn State-bound Martin has been a starter since her freshman year, and has recovered nicely from early-season injuries the past two seasons.

Martin had 18 kills Tuesday and now owns 1,003 in her career.

And for as much praise as Martin’s powerful swing gets, it will be her back row defense will be one of the main reasons Plant wins a fourth straight state title

-- Bayshore Christian hitter Gabby Fernandez wasn’t expected to be back from shoulder tendonitis until the region final, but doctors cleared her to play Monday afternoon.

Save one hour of practice on Monday and Fernandez hadn’t swung at a ball in two weeks. But what does she do? Just 19 kills and 11 digs in a three-set win over Bradenton Christian.

Fernandez is back just in time also. Bayshore faces its toughest test of the draw in the next round. The Faith Warriors across the state to face South Daytona Warner Christian, the defending Class 1A state champ, in Saturday’s region final.

 -- One more tidbit. First-year Newsome coach Kate Correa has the Wolves one win away from their first state tournament berth, but she is no stranger to the final four.

Correa played three years at Tampa Prep, winning two Class 2A state titles in 1995 and 1996 under former Terps coach Carol Chalu.

Speaking of the Wolves, credit Newsome all around. Superb efforts all around, from senior middle Hillary Byrd, who already had her right thumb taped heavily, and still gutted out a fifth game effort after twisting her left knee.  From outside Lauren Zellmer, who emerged as that go-to point scorer late. To the Newsome faithful, which outnumbered the home Armwood crowd with more light blue than royal blue. After the final point, the Wolves fans would have stormed the court had not administrators and Hillsborough County's finest not halted the masses. 

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