Plant 3, Vero Beach 1
Slow starts have been common for the Panthers this season.
In September, they lost four of five matches during a rough stretch. In the region semifinals, they lost the opening set to rival Steinbrenner.
Each time, Plant showed its resolve.
The Panthers rebounded from their mid-season struggles by turning it on when it mattered most. After losing the opening set to the Warriors early last week, Plant won the next three sets to move on to the next round.
In Saturday’s region final, the Panthers found themselves in another hole after losing the first set to Vero Beach.
Once again, Plant stormed back.
The Panthers took care of the next three sets to win 19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-16.
For the fifth time in the past six seasons, the Panthers advanced to the state semifinals. They will host Lake Nona on Saturday with the chance to reach the final for the first time since 2018.
St. Petersburg 3, Ocala Forest 1
The Green Devils’ season of superlatives continues.
After advancing to the region final for the first time earlier in the week, St. Petersburg followed that up by beating previously undefeated Ocala Forest 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 27-25 to reach the state semifinals.
The Wildcats were dominant in compiling a perfect record entering Saturday’s match. After all, they had only lost one set all season.
That changed quickly.
From the start, the Green Devils took control, winning the first two sets. Even when St. Petersburg fell in the third set, there was no panic. That was due in large part to being tested in closely contested matches.
The Green Devils outlasted rival East Lake in a region semifinal in which the first four sets were all decided by two points.
So after losing a set on Saturday, St. Petersburg was able to regain momentum to win.
Madelyn Davis had 10 kills, nine blocks and five digs to lead the Green Devils. Others who played well include Jordan Bunce (15 digs and 13 kills), Livvi Harting (44 digs) and Nicole Robison (52 assists).
Fort Myers 3, Hillsborough 0
The Terriers’ dream season ended.
Hillsborough, which was playing in the region final for the first time, was swept by the Green Wave 25-16, 25-17, 25-12.
Fort Myers was used to being in this position. This season was the Green Wave’s 22nd straight in the playoffs, a streak that ranks among the top 10 in the state.
This time, they got past an elusive obstacle by reaching the state semifinals for the first time since 2015.
Robinson 3, Port Charlotte 1
After a two-year absence, the Knights are back in the state semifinals.
Robinson made it by going on the road to knock off Port Charlotte in the region final 21-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-17.
Mila Yarich, a Yale commit, set the tone for the Knights with her play at the net.
Ocala Vanguard 3, Fivay 1
The Falcons, who were in the region final for the third time in the past four seasons, were trying to take the next step by advancing to the state semifinals for the first time.
To do that, Fivay had to get past the Knights, who won a state title in 2018 and reached the final last season.
The experience in those big game matches showed.
Vanguard made it back to the final four by cruising to a 25-16, 25-19, 25-13 win.
Academy of the Holy Names 3, Weeki Wachee 0
After losing in the state semifinals last season, the Jaguars were motivated to get back.
They did just that, sweeping previously undefeated Weeki Wachee 25-14, 25-21, 25-13 in the region final.
But Academy of the Holy Names does not have that just-happy-to-be here mentality.
This time, the Jaguars want to win it all.
They certainly looked like a state championship team on Saturday. Campbell Halme (12 kills) and Kensley Warbritton (10 kills) led the attack on offense.
When the Hornets tried spiking the ball, Halme and Camryn McClendon (combined eight blocks) were there to reject those shots. And Janessa Bailey set everything up with a team-high 33 assists.
Bishop McLaughlin 3, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 1
To reach the state semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons, the Hurricanes had to get past their biggest nemesis.
Twice in the past two seasons, Bishop McLaughlin was swept by the Cougars, including last year’s region semifinals.
The Hurricanes were not going to let that happen again.
Led by a balanced — and efficient — attack, Bishop McLaughlin overcame their biggest obstacle to a potential state title by knocking off the defending champions 25-15, 21-25, 25-12, 25-19.
Audrey Koenig, an FSU commit, had 20 kills and Maddie Snider added 19 to lead the offense. Ezzie Thompson came up big at the net, blocking six shots. And Naomi Chinchar contributed with a team-high 40 assists.
Class 3A, Region 2 was perhaps the toughest in the state. After all, five of the top 10 teams in 3A belonged to that region.
After getting past the most difficult part of the bracket, the Hurricanes, ranked No. 1 overall in the state by MaxPreps and ninth nationally by MaxPreps, are well-positioned to win their first state title in school history.
Only two steps remain.
The first comes Saturday when Bishop McLaughlin hosts Ocala Trinity Catholic, ranked 12th in 3A, in the state semifinals.
Naples First Baptist Academy 3, Tampa Bay HEAT 0
The HEAT, which was trying to reach the state semifinals for the third time in the past five seasons, fell short of their goal, losing 25-12, 25-11, 25-12.