Seffner Christian walked into Lakeland McKeel's gymnasium last week and when the first serve went up, froze for a bit.
The stands were packed. McKeel's football and basketball team were in attendance.
And really, really boisterous.
"They even had cheerleaders there," Seffner Christian outside hitter Ally Parimore said. "It was pretty intimidating."
Wait until the Crusaders look up in the rafters Tuesday.
After overcoming the fans at McKeel to win its Class 3A region quarterfinal, Seffner Christian will attempt to go where no volleyball team in school history has gone when it visits perennial power Tampa Prep at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the 3A region semifinals.
"You could tell that some (of my teammates) we're a little nervous (against McKeel)," Parimore said. "Personally, I like when there is a lot of noise and stuff, even if it isn't for us."
Regardless of the crowd Tuesday, the banners alone at Tampa Prep can be daunting. The Terrapins have 15 state titles, tied for second-most in state history behind Cardinal Gibbons' 19.
"They have built a program over there and that's what we want to do here," Seffner Christian coach Craig Collins said. "We always preach 'program.' We're not there yet, but we're on our way."
Since moving up to 3A from 1A before last season, the Terps have beaten the Crusaders in all four matches. But the two losses this season gave Parimore reason to think Tuesday could be different.
"I think we are better offensively than we've been in my two years and much better defensively," she said. "We didn't really have a chance before but now it's different."
Tampa Prep coach Andrew Wilson agreed.
"They are very good defensively," he said. "They're a grind it out team that plays good 'D' and wears you down."
Gabby Laloma is Seffner Christians' setter and Elisa Lemerond is a libero moved to the outside because, according to Collins, "she's the best passer on the team."
But Parimore is the catalyst to the Crusaders' offensive engine.
"We set her a lot," Collins said. "Her mother is a coach at Florida College so she understands the game and we run a lot of things through her."
Although Tampa Prep and all its history will be the prohibitive favorite Tuesday, Seffner Christian believes reaching the region finals for the first time in school history isn't out of the question.
"We took a game from them in each (loss) this season, so it wasn't like they just blew us out," Parimore said. "I think we have a shot Tuesday."
Brandon Wright can be reached at email@example.com.