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PLANT HANDLES NEW RIVAL

With Maddie Martin at full strength, Panthers roll against Brandon.

The Brandon volleyball team will get to know Plant well this fall.

First, it hopes to figure itself out.

With the new classification alignment, the teams are district rivals. That means possibly four meetings this season, maybe the latest being in the Class 6A region semifinals.

They met Tuesday at Plant - each team working through early-season miscues - with the Panthers unveiling their third consecutive Class 5A state championship banner for the first home game of the season.

The competition on the court was far less revealing, with the Panthers earning a commanding 25-13, 25-18, 25-16 victory.

"The only thing I can say is that it's really fortunate that it's early in the season," Brandon coach Amy Watson said. "They've seen it now. It's not that we don't have the lineup to make the difference, because it's there. If you play like that, you're always going to be No. 2 in the county. Honestly, with the way we played tonight, we're probably fifth or sixth."

Panthers senior outside hitter Maddie Martin, coming off a right shoulder injury and previously limited in her hitting, was allowed to swing at full strength for the first time this season. She led Plant with 15 kills and 10 digs.

"I think a lot of girls had the first home game jitters and they were trying to get them out," Martin said. "Hopefully next home game we'll play without the stress and the nerves and we won't make as many mistakes."

Plant (3-0), a team that had heavy losses to graduation, is finding its way on defense.

"It's a matter of jelling and all the girls feeling comfortable with each other and communicating," Plant coach Leanna Taylor said. "That's the key to the whole thing."

With five senior starters, the Eagles' loss was unsettling for Watson.

"I don't think that we pushed them to play at all at their level," she said. "We came out flat. We stayed flat. We actually got worse in some cases as far as getting less competitive."

Libero Ali McCurdy had nine digs for the Panthers, and setter Becca Howard added 25 assists.

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