BRANDON — Brandon volleyball coach Amy Watson knows the look. She sees it often when opponents come into the Eagles' gym looking for a win.
The Eagles have established themselves as the top program in eastern Hillsborough County. Opponents know they need to play their best to have a shot at beating Brandon.
But when it comes to playing three-time defending state champion Plant, the roles are reversed.
"Everyone around here wants the opportunity to beat Brandon," Watson said. "But when we have the opportunity to beat Plant, we've got to come up and play like everyone else comes to play us.
"But we don't, and as a coach, that's the part that's most frustrating. You can't coach that."
Plant made easy work of Brandon on Wednesday night, beating the Eagles on their home floor 25-12, 25-12, 25-17.
"Our girls don't want anything to do with it," Watson said. "They don't believe in themselves. Until they believe, it's going to be the same score. So many on the team want to beat them, but when the opportunity comes they don't use it. I don't know why."
Plant (19-1) took control quickly, running out to a 9-2 lead in the first game, then scoring nine straight points on setter Becca Howard's serve to easily take the first game. The Panthers then took a 15-8 lead in the second game.
With the win, the Panthers clinched the first seed in the Class 6A-8 district tournament, which will be at Brandon. The teams might face each other a fourth time in the region semifinals.
"(Plant coach Leanna Taylor) tells us this is the time to remember, this is the time, this is the final stretch," said Plant senior outside hitter Maddie Martin, who led the Panthers with 12 kills and 10 digs.
Outside hitter Alex Johnson added 10 kills, libero Ali McCurdy had 10 digs and Howard tallied 39 assists, including a few lunging passes, a handful of tips over the net and even a spike to close out Game 1.
"I'm definitely encouraging them to do more," Taylor said. "I told Becca, 'Make this your palette and make it your masterpiece.' We're trying to be creative with our hitters and trust our hitters. We want to keep exploring."
Brandon outside hitter Lindsey Watson led the Eagles (9-5) with six kills.