BRANDON — The Brandon volleyball team will likely try to utilize every homecourt advantage it can for tonight's district title match against Plant, including its bass-thumping, ear-ringing warmup mix that ranges from AC/DC to Jay-Z.
From day one of this season, the top public schools in Hillsborough County have been on a collision course to tonight, this time with a district crown on the line. First, top-seeded Plant made easy work of No. 4 seed Wharton, 25-15, 25-9, 25-10 and No. 2 seed Brandon had to beat cross-town rival No. 3 Bloomingdale in three sets, 25-6, 25-21, 25-17.
"It's the best two teams in the county, flat out," Brandon coach Amy Watson said. "Our problem is that we have yet to believe in ourselves. We have yet to play them the way we're capable of playing. If we don't it will be the same thing, three sets in 45 minutes."
In two meetings this season, Plant beat Brandon (19-5) in three sets. Brandon hasn't taken a game from the Panthers since 2007.
"They're always in the back of our heads," said Eagles junior outside hitter Lindsey Watson said. "We're always being looked up to by Armwood and Newsome. They say, 'We're going to beat Brandon this year.' That's how we are with Plant. We say, 'We're going to beat Plant this year.' It's one of our big goals, to take a match from Plant."
Against Bloomingdale, Watson led the Eagles with 12 kills and 17 digs. Senior Aly Woodlee added eight kills and 11 digs and Nicole Higgins tallied seven kills. Setter Devin Whale had 32 assists and libero Sammi Klemp had 11 digs.
After dominating the Bulls in the first game, Bloomingdale was stingy in the final two, narrowing a 24-15 lead to 24-21 in Game 2 and taking a 16-15 lead in Game 3.
"We expected that," Lindsey Watson said. "They're going to have fight. It's their last game if they lose. We got a little shook up, but we were able to handle it."
Leah Jordan (11 kills, two blocks) and Tina Catanach (five kills, three aces) and Alex Johnson (10 kills) led Plant (23-1) in an easy win over Wharton.
"It's a relief," Jordan said. "I think we're playing at a high level right now. The season's gone by really fast and now we're finally getting to the end when we have to win."