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Season preview: Hillsborough volleyball

Plant’s Maddie Martin is known for her power on the court, but it’s not something she is aware of. “I just don’t think I’m hitting that hard,” the Penn State commit says.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Plant’s Maddie Martin is known for her power on the court, but it’s not something she is aware of. “I just don’t think I’m hitting that hard,” the Penn State commit says.

TAMPA — How valuable is Plant outside hitter Maddie Martin to the Panthers' quest for a four-peat?

The senior Penn State commit, coming off a shoulder injury that kept her sidelined much of the club season, is currently on a swing count (think pitch count, only with a volleyball, and with Martin, vicious power).

She took time Thursday to answer a few questions about the upcoming season, chasing another state title ring and jacket shopping.

You have the rare opportunity to win four state titles in four years of high school. How much do you think about that going into this season?

I definitely think about it. That's the main goal. Not too many people can say they've won four state titles. We have some huge tournaments to get us ready for that. We're going to Chicago (for the Nike Challenge) again. Our main goal is to get back to Lakeland.

You've lived in Florida your whole life. Are you ready for those Penn State winters? Do you have a jacket?

I'm going to need to get one from what I've been hearing. I've never been there in that kind of weather. I do have my older brother (football player Cam Martin), who is at Michigan State. He's a little Florida boy who went up to cold weather. He's playing an outdoor sport and he tells me after your freshman year it won't feel any different.

Do you have any superstitions?

Well, I always wear the same spandex for every game. Obviously, I wash them. If I'm chewing a piece of gum in the beginning of the game, it will be in there until the end. If we're losing, I'll take it out. I don't know why. Even if it's a bad warm-up, I'll take it out.

Before last season you had never been injured, but you've been battling injuries last year and heading into this year. How much are you itching to get back on the court?

You have no idea. I can't wait to get out there. (On Tuesday) it was so tough. We were playing at Venice, our main rival, and I'm sitting there watching, wanting to be out there so bad. I know that I'm getting there and that I can't rush into anything. I just have to be patient with it.

Everyone talks about how hard you hit. When you're in the middle of a game, do you realize your power?

I don't even realize how hard I'm hitting it. Sometimes I watch tape, and I don't realize. When I have an open net, I just hit as hard as I can. I just don't think I'm hitting that hard.

There was one hit at Venice last year that was pretty memorable. Remember that one?

Yeah, that one's on tape. I didn't realize how hard it was until I saw it on tape and you see the crowd's faces in the background. I just was like, okay.

Players to watch

Jordan Burgess, OH, So., Berkeley Prep: Scary fact: Burgess was Berkeley's leading hitter as a freshman. She's only going to get better.

MacKenzie Dagostino, S, So., Berkeley Prep: Will concentrate on setting this season, but the talented daughter of Berkeley's coach might be a better right-side hitter.

Caroline Dillabough, S, Sr., Tampa Prep: Terps' starting setter has the size to be versatile in Tampa Prep's offense.

Gabby Fernandez, OH, Jr., Bayshore Christian: With her talent, she can be the cornerstone of any team in the county regardless of size.

Becca Howard, S, Sr., Plant: Often goes unnoticed among the Panthers' talent but is such a key cog to Plant's success.

Ali McCurdy, Libero, Sr., Plant: Panthers' floor captain is a defensive stalwart who covers lots of court.

Erika McGriff, OH, Jr., Tampa Prep: The daughter of former major-leaguer Fred McGriff is the Terps' leading returning hitter.

Lindsey Watson, S/RS, Jr., Brandon: The Eagles' up-and-comer can do a little of it all: hit, serve, set and dig.

Aly Woodlee, OH, Sr., Brandon: Big-time hitter had 304 kills last season for the Class 5A region finalists.

. Lindsay Young, MB, Sr., Berkeley Prep: The Colgate commitment is one of the top players in the county, the Bucs' unquestioned leader this year.

Teams to watch

Plant: After winning three straight 5A state titles, the Panthers make the jump to 6A, where several state powers — Timber Creek and Winter Park ­­— await.

Berkeley Prep: The Bucs return mostly everyone from last season, but can they finally beat Lake Highland Prep, which has ended their season at states four years in a row?

Tampa Prep: It has been four years since the Terps won their last state title. But Tampa Prep is always primed for the playoffs thanks to a challenging schedule.

Brandon: The Eagles, who went 25-1 going into their region final loss to state finalist Lake Howell, now have that important postseason experience.

Bayshore Christian: The Faith Warriors hope to improve on their Class A region final performance last year after winning states two years ago.

Other teams to watch: Bloomingdale, Durant, Holy Names, Newsome, Sickles

Games to watch

Plant at Durant, Sept. 2: First big county game of the year pits the three-time champs against one of the top programs in the county.

Berkeley Prep vs. Venice (at USF Sun Dome), Sept. 12: State power Venice serves as the Bucs' first regular-season test.

Tampa Prep vs. Berkeley Prep (at TP on Sept. 22, at BP on Oct. 16): Historically, the county's top volleyball rivalry. These teams just don't like each other.

Berkeley Premier Tournament (at Berkeley Prep), Sept. 25-26: Always one of the top tournaments in the state.

Plant vs. Brandon, Oct. 1: New district rivals meet for the second time, with maybe the district's No. 1 seed on the line.

Tampa Bay Invitational (at UT), Oct. 9-10: Another top invitational brings a number of state contenders.

Brandon at Durant, Oct. 22: Regular-season finale for both teams. A big win could propel them into the postseason on a good note.

Season preview: Hillsborough volleyball 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:40pm]

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