The Plant High volleyball team cleared a first hurdle last Tuesday, sweeping a tri-match against Brandon and Bloomingdale, and for head coach Laura Figueredo, the victory over Brandon was one she'd like to savor for some time.
It took six years to break the Eagles' winning streak over the Panthers, and with the help of six seniors, Figueredo believes this is her strongest team in years.
"We ran a very good offense," said Figueredo, whose team beat the Eagles 15-12, 10-15, 15-8. "We were down 9-4 at one point and came back to win. This is the first team to come back and win like that; we've never come back from a deficit against Brandon. I can just tell, the competitive nature and definition of this team makes me think we're stronger than Brandon."
"They're a very strong team and have the potential to get even stronger," Eagles coach Frank Vining said. "We just had a mental letdown in critical situations. But we're still searching. We're not settled yet in our lineup."
The Panthers offense was guided by 6-foot-2 senior Emily Leffers, who had 17 kills in the tri-match, 13 versus the Eagles. Megan Flynn added 10 kills and Stephanie Aikens followed with nine. Freshman Danielle Faggion provided additional offense with three aces.
The Panthers, undefeated in the National Division of the Western Conference, will try to clear another hurdle at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when they face host Chamberlain, undefeated in the American Division. The match originally was scheduled for tonight.
"I know they're going to be big," Figueredo said. "But if we stay on, and stay with our game plan of attacking, then it should be a great match."
For an added twist, Gregg Latter, head coach for the Chiefs, is a family friend of the Figueredos and has known Laura for almost 20 years.
Chamberlain: The Chiefs went north last weekend to play in the Tallahassee Tournament, where they finished third out of 15 schools with a 3-2 record. The two losses were the first for the Chiefs this season, but Latter said the experience helped his team and that it is much stronger now than before the tournament.
The Preps: Berkeley Prep and Tampa Prep visited Chicago for the invitation-only Challenge tournament, finishing fourth and 11th respectively among 21 of the top high school teams in the country. (See the Performance of the Week column for details on Berkeley.)
The Terrapins' finish was their highest in four years of tournament play.
"The tournament was much more competitive now that they hold another tournament one week before for teams ranked under the top 21," Tampa Prep coach Carol Dagostino said. "The competition was great and it was a full test of our playing ability. We were in every match; nobody blew us away."