TAMPA — Despite lining up against it three previous times this season, when Tampa Prep faced Indian Rocks Christian on Tuesday night in the Class 2A, Region 3 semifinal, it may as well have been the first time.
At least that was the mind-set of Tampa Prep coach Mike Flynn and his players.
Flynn said his team faces each opponent as if it were the first time. Still, the latest edition of the rivalry looked a lot like the others as Tampa Prep swept Indian Rocks Christian 25-15, 25-14, 25-15.
Indian Rocks Christian (21-8) opened the match with a 6-1 lead and seem ready to reverse the season's trend when it was swept all three times by the Terrapins.
But Tampa Prep (14-13) quickly rallied, got the score back to 10-10 and then went on a 15-5 run to take the first game and set the tone. The Eagles led again only once during the remainder of the match.
Tampa Prep was led by senior hitter Alena Ransom, who had 10 kills, and senior middle hitter Dana Malinowski, who posted seven kills, 11 digs and had four aces. Libero Anna Delence added nine digs and setter Caroline Dillabough had 28 assists.
Trying to win their first state championship since 2004, the Terrapins are extra focused at this time of year, Flynn said.
"When it comes to the playoffs, we're not looking at things that happened two months ago or even two weeks ago," he said of defeating Indian Rocks Christian earlier this season. "It's as if we're playing them for the first time.
"And that's how it has to be. They are a quality team and when they see us, they get pumped up. They didn't go away easy. But for us, this is about winning a state championship."