TAMPA — Plant coach Leanna Taylor is, in her own words, a perfectionist. So even though her team defeated a solid Palm Harbor University squad 25-14, 25-15, 25-21 Tuesday night in the Class 5A region semifinals, she wasn't overly thrilled with the performance.
But that's nothing new.
"I'm never really happy," Taylor said.
PHU (24-4) did its best to put up a fight, but the Hurricanes couldn't overcome a slow start. Had PHU opened the match better, "I think things could have been a lot different," coach Tara Kuk said. "It took us a while to get going. We didn't get into it until the third game."
Behind the play of middle hitter Morgan Kosterlitz (11 blocks), and hitters Cassie Roy (10 kills) and Chelsea King (six kills), PHU led on more than one occasion in Game 3 to make things interesting. But Plant answered with powerful kills from outside hitter Danielle Erb and Maddie Martin.
"They came on in the third," setter Becca Howard said. "We definitely had to fight back."
To the casual observer, Plant (25-3) appeared to have played well. But Taylor came away concerned about the offensive distribution, or lack thereof.
"We need more balance," she said.
Plant might have lacked balance, but it had everything else. Its defense was rock solid (libero Ali McCurdy and Erb had 11 digs apiece). Offensively, Howard (35 assists), Erb (12 kills) and Martin (12 kills) formed a formidable trio.
"The offense was running fairly well," Taylor said. "And the defense was good; it was scrappy."
The Panthers, who have won back-to-back state titles, sit a win Saturday against Venice away from the final four.