TAMPA — This time, there was no raucous student section to call to task or allegedly inappropriate chants to chastise. In the latest renewal of the Wharton-Plant volleyball rivalry, docile trumped disrespectful.
“Usually for Wharton games we get a lot (of fans), but there’s also a JV football game tonight,” Panthers senior Kaitlyn Sibson said with a chuckle.
Atmosphere wasn’t the only casualty Tuesday; parity also was absent. Behind a sturdy defensive effort, Plant (2-0) coasted to a 3-0 romp of the Wildcats (1-2) on the 51-week anniversary of Wharton’s lone triumph in the series.
That match, at Wharton, was blemished by allegations of profanity — among other things — by Wharton’s student section, which wouldn’t have had much to get rowdy over Tuesday. Sibson and sophomore libero Mei Stalder combined for 27 digs as the Panthers prevailed 25-13, 25-12, 25-20.
“I think our block did a really good job of setting up our defense, which made it easier for them to pick up the tips and digs,” Plant coach Jessica Lamm said. “Defense always starts with the blocks.”
Six-foot-1 junior Kyuana King had four of those blocks to lead the Panthers. Sibson added nine kills.
“Especially after last year, they were such a big rival of ours, we wanted to come in really solid and strong and just show them that we’re here for the season,” Sibson said. “We’re here to play hard and we’re not going to let anyone get in our way.”