TAMPA — Plant and Academy of the Holy Names, schools that are just 2 miles from each other, are the only area teams left standing in the state volleyball tournament. For the Panthers, a state semifinal appearance is a near annual event. For the Jaguars, they are trying to make a state final for the first time since 1997.
Both teams got this far by getting contributions from players who weren’t even on the roster last season. Plant was led last year by outside hitter and Tampa Bay Times Hillsborough County Player of the Year Camryn Vogler. She graduated, but was replaced by Tampa Prep transfer Sam Caglianone.
Caglianone, a senior, fit right in and has become a reliable hitter. Teamed with Birdie Frierson, Elizabeth Price and Reese Friar, Caglianone has given the Panthers another reliable offensive option.
“She brought experience,” Todorovic said. “She gave us another offensive outlet. When she transferred over she just continued her domination on the court."
Caglianone had 342 kills in her junior year at Tampa Prep, by far the most on the team. This season she has 182 kills, mostly because she is not the main offensive option. She had a team high 11 kills in Tuesday’s regional final win over Steinbrenner.
While going this deep in the playoffs is nothing new for her teammates, it is new to Caglianone.
“I’ve never even won districts on a team before,” Caglianone said. “This is awesome. I’ve played club with most of them but even the girls I’ve just met have been so welcoming. I love this team.’’
Unlike Plant, Holy Names didn’t get any transfers. But it did get four freshmen who have contributed immediately.
Camille McClendon, sister of junior Camryn McClendon, has made the biggest impact. She has 192 kills, second on the team behind her sister. But there are also freshmen Campbell Halme (128 kills), Kinsley Warbritton (123 kills) and Lauren Donofrio (58 digs).
Add junior libero Olivia Mortellaro and junior setter Jenessa Bailey and the young Jaguars are getting contributions from just about everyone. Coach Randy Thomas said that was apparent in his team’s five-set win over rival Tampa Catholic in the region semifinals.
“That was one of the best matches,” Thomas said. “They know who our main players are. That’s when Kinsley and Campbell and (senior hitter) Sara (Vivero) and some other players stepped up on offense. They contributed with big kills. Our TC win was well-rounded. We wouldn’t haven’t been able to do it with just the McClendons.’’
When the season started, Thomas wasn’t really sure what to expect. He knew he had a young team and he knew he had a tough schedule. But some big wins along the way, including Berkeley Prep, Northside Christian and Palm Harbor University, gave Thomas reason for hope.
“(A state tournament berth) was on the radar but you never know if it would actually happen,” Thomas said. “Our main goal was districts. Let’s just win districts. That would be a feasible goal. Then let’s go after regionals. Then let’s go after states. We just took it chunk by chunk.’’
Class 7A: Plant (24-7) at Oviedo Hagerty (24-6)
How they got here: Plant defeated Wharton 3-1, Windermere 3-2, Steinbrenner 3-1; Hagerty defeated DeLand 3-0, Oviedo 3-0, Lyman 3-2.
Up next: Winner will play Palm Beach Gardens/Miami Southwest on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. in Fort Myers for state championship.
Key players: Plant — So. Reese Friar (201 kills, 73 blocks), Sr. Birdie Frierson (200 kills, 201 digs), Sr. Sam Caglianone (171 kills), Sr. Haile Gould (394 digs), Jr. Georgia Lowe (476 assists), Jr. Sophie Fleeger (332 assists); Hagerty — Sr. Audrey Douglas (265 kills, 104 blocks), Sr. Sydney Conley (259 kills, 196 digs), Sr. Jessica Buis (197 kills, 260 digs), Jr. Alondra Garcia (338 digs), Sr. Emily Lawrence (879 assists).
Outlook: These teams met in the season opener with Hagerty winning in straight sets. It is also a rematch of last year’s Class 8A region final, which Plant won in straight sets. The Huskies are loaded with seniors and ranked second in the state and 15th nationally by MaxPreps. Hagerty finished the regular season with a 3-2 win over Tallahassee Leon, another state power. In the region final, the Huskies beat a very good Orlando Lyman 3-2. This is a team that has played a difficult schedule and will be tough to beat in their own gym. ... Plant started slowly but is much improved. The Panthers have won nine straight and survived a five set scare against Windermere in the region semifinal. They are a bit less experienced than last year’s team that made it to the state championship match, but if the Panthers can avoid a slow start they have a chance on the road.
Quotable: “I think my team has about 10 or 15 percent more that they haven’t shown anybody yet. The last time we played them we played a little timid. I don’t see my guys playing timid this time around. We’re going to fire from all flanks. We have nothing to lose and neither do they." — Plant coach Vanja Todorovic
Class 4A: Academy of the Holy Names (20-10) at Alachua Santa Fe (20-9)
How they got here: Holy Names defeated Hudson 3-0, Tampa Catholic 3-2, Nature Coast 3-1; Santa Fe defeated Jacksonville Bolles 3-0, North Bay Haven Academy 3-0, Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 3-1.
Up next: Winner will play Lake Highland Prep/Miami St. Brendan on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. for the state championship.
Key players: AHN — Jr. Camryn McClendon (207 kills, 66 blocks), Fr. Camille McClendon (192 kills, Fr. Campbell Halme (128 kills), Fr. Kinsley Warbritton (123 kills), Jr. OIivia Mortellaro (185 digs), Jr. Jenessa Bailey (201 assists); Santa Fe — So. Rylie Tam (401 kills, 75 blocks), Fr. Jalyn Stout (291 kills, 289 digs), Sr. Amelia MacCallum (239 digs, 494 assists), Fr. Ro’Miya Thomas (307 digs).
Outlook: Santa Fe made it all the way to the Class 6A state final last year before losing to powerful Merritt Island. The Raiders bring a mix of youth and experience into this home match. Stout had 20 kills and Tam had 21 kills in their region final win Tuesday. Stopping that young duo will be key.
The Jaguars will be an underdog against the Raiders, who are ranked 21st in the state. Holy Names is 58th. But the McClendon sisters are hard to stop at the net and there are other players who can help on offense. The Jaguars have won six straight and proved they deserved the top seed in Region 2.
Quotable: “We’ve had a tough schedule and it’s been kind of hard for this young team to play. But we’ve pushed through it and done well. I think we’re peaking at the right time." — AHN coach Randy Thomas