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Hillsborough schools win three titles

Durant coach Teri Ohme was afraid of how it might sound, but she said it anyway.

"We really expected well, we weren't expecting to win. But in a sense, we came here to win."

So even after a feisty Niceville team battled back from 7-1 to take the lead in the first game, the Cougars (30-3) weren't concerned. Setters Heather Connell and Christen Garcia controlled the pace while four different players attacked from all sides.

And as Ohme had all but expected, Durant won the Class 5A state title, beating Niceville 15-10, 15-7.

It was the second state title for most of the team's juniors and seniors, and was a timely comeback from last year's 6A semifinal loss to Miami Sunset.

Senior Jenna Jordan had the final block and kill to end the match, and was the 5A All-Tournament MVP.

After the Cougars gained an easy 7-1 early lead, the Eagles (29-6) made a surprising run to take a one-point lead (8-7), mostly from Durant mistakes. But the Cougars never strayed from their strengths _ a balanced offense and controlled sets _ and clearly dominated the second game.

"It's good to end on a win," said senior Morgan Miltner, who led the Cougars with seven digs.

"We didn't want to end the season on a low note."

2A: Tampa Prep overpowers foe

Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy walked into the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex not intimidated by Tampa Prep.

Respectful, yes. Jealous, possibly. But intimidated? No way.

At least that's what it said.

Once the match began, any hints of Tampa Prep intimidation quickly transformed to domination as the Terrapins took just 45 minutes to rout Westminster 15-1, 15-8 to claim the Class 2A state title. The relatively easy win completes a 28-4 season for the Terrapins, who with the victory celebrate the school's 14th volleyball state title.

After Westminster opened the first game with a 1-0 lead (its only lead of the contest), Tampa Prep took control and reeled off 15 consecutive points.

Westminster miscues accounted for the blowout almost as much as the Terps' attacking offense, which featured varying fronts that confused the Lions.

And that worked _ for a while.

After Tampa Prep took a 5-0 lead on an Amber Langston kill, the Lions clawed back into the game.

In fact, Westminster went on a 7-3 run to close the deficit to one point and set the stage for a comeback similar to the one it pulled off in advancing to the title match.

But with two quick Tampa Prep points, one coming on a booming kill from Lara Schoomaker, the Terps regained control and quickly closed out the match.

4A: Plant buries Merritt Island

Overcoming a season of adjustments and the pressure of being the final Hillsborough County team on Saturday to go for a 2001 state volleyball title, Plant defeated Merritt Island 15-7, 15-10 for the 4A championship.

With the 2A champions (Tampa Prep) and 5A champions (Durant) pulling for a Hillsborough County trifecta, the Panthers never allowed the possibility of disappointment. The Panthers ducked and dove for almost every Merritt Island ball, discouraging the height-advantaged Mustangs from making runs.

"We weren't nervous at all," Plant junior Jessica Smith said.

"We were more excited, because we knew we could do it."

Plant sophomore Sarah Kirkwood led the Panthers with 12 kills and 10 digs and was named the all-tournament MVP. Smith had seven kills and 10 digs.

"That's probably the best team we've played, with that kind of defense," Merritt Island junior Chantelle Jordan said. "I guess we weren't really used to them stuffing it down our throats."

_ Times correspondent Rod Gipson contributed to this report.

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