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Kirkwoods' sister act playing again at Plant

Sarah Kirkwood made a tough decision to leave Berkeley Prep. Joining her sister, Emily, makes it more comfortable.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 22, 2001


TAMPA -- Last season was one of the best seasons Emily and Sarah Kirkwood could have imagined.

Emily averaged nine assists a game and was named to the Times' second-team All-Suncoast squad. Sarah set a freshman record with 200 kills and was third-team All-State.

The only problem was they did it for different schools.

That won't be a problem this season.

Sarah transferred from Berkeley Prep to Plant, joining her older sister on the Panther volleyball team and immediately turning what was already one of the strongest teams in the county into a state contender.

"Sure she's going to add to the team," first-year Plant coach Kimi Hellenberg said. "She's a great asset. Anytime you get a player of that caliber it's going to help your team."

Sarah is a sophomore outside hitter, complimenting a squad which already features Emily, one of the top setters in the state as a junior, and senior Claire Colbert, one of the best middle blockers around.

She said the decision to leave volleyball powerhouse Berkeley Prep, which has won 11 state titles, for Plant, which has two championships (1975 and '76) was tough. Leaving Bucs head coach Randy Dagostino, who also coached her for a year in the Tampa Bay Juniors, made it tougher.

Still, it was something she felt she had to do.

"It really was hard," Sarah said. "I liked a lot of the people there, the volleyball was great. It was a wonderful school but I think I fit in more at Plant. The social environment is more suited for me here."

Part of that environment includes Emily, who said playing on a different team than her sister was a strange feeling. The two have been club teammates since Sarah was 11 and Emily was 12.

"I knew she had been talking about transferring but I didn't know what she was going to do," Emily said. "I know she liked coach Dag and volleyball at Berkeley. We've always been playing together. It was weird not playing on the same for the same high school."

Plant promptly positions itself for a state title thanks to the transfer. The Panthers advanced to the region finals last season, losing to Countryside and finishing 25-5. Emily had 20 assists in that match.

"It's gonna be great, our team is going to be awesome," Emily said. "She's what we needed. Our goal is to bring home a state championship. This year will be one of the best volleyball teams Plant will ever see."

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