Panthers earn tournament title

Published October 8, 2006

TAMPA - Plant ended all disputes about Florida's Class 5A rankings as the No. 1 Panthers defeated No. 2 Venice 25-18, 25-15, 25-22 Saturday to win the Tampa Bay Invitational volleyball tournament.

The Panthers never trailed in the first two games of the match. In the first game, Plant was helped by outside hitter Danielle Erb with two aces and setter Kellie Catanach with one.

In the third game, Plant coach Leanna Taylor said she wanted to change the team's lineup to see how they would react.

"I did put in a different lineup in Game 3," Taylor said.

"I just wanted to see if they could succeed with something else out there, and they stayed focused."

Venice rallied in the third game, leading six times, but at a tie at 22 Plant refocused and scored three straight for the win. Both the first and third games ended with kills by middle hitter Christine Williamson. Williamson had 13 kills in the match.

Catanach and Williamson were named to the all- tournament team.

Venice was led by all-tournament players Nickie Halbert and Natalie Gaudreau.

Plant defeated Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers) and Berkeley Prep in pool play with both matches being 3-0 wins. From there, Plant defeated Spanish River in the first round of the winner's bracket to advance to the final against Venice.

Taylor said her team's goal for the final two weeks of the season is to stay focused and not let up.

"We have to keep getting better," Taylor said.

"I don't want to experience a valley. We need to sustain."

Berkeley Prep finished ninth in the tournament by defeating West Boca Raton, and host team Tampa Prep finished 15th.