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Panthers cruise past Falcons


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

TAMPA -- Leto isn't having one of its better seasons, but no matter how good the Falcons get, they won't come close to the kind of success Plant is having. The Panthers saw to that personally Wednesday night.

Plant used a relentless attack, aided by Leto miscues, to defeat the Falcons 15-4, 15-4 and claim the National Division crown of the Western Conference tournament. With the win, Plant (20-3) advances to Friday's conference final. The loss drops Leto to 7-7, ending its ride above .500. Still, Leto is enjoying a solid season as evidenced by its No. 2 seed heading into the conference tournament and likely No. 2 seed heading into district play next week.

"They're having a good season," Plant coach Gary Larkin said of Leto.

"They have a good team and are going to do some good things the rest of this season."

But that didn't help the Falcons Wednesday night. Leto had an opening-round bye and topped Robinson in the second round to advance to the title game against No. 1 seed Plant. But going up against the Panthers, Leto's front line found itself exposed and often outmanned. Nevertheless, the Falcons led 3-0 in the first game before Plant collected itself. The Panthers quickly took the lead, ripping off 13 consecutive points to go up by 10. Hitting errors by the Falcons and the strong play of Mia Johnson were the main reasons the Panthers took the advantage. The second game was almost a carbon copy of the first except Plant never trailed.

A Claire Colbert kill and an Amanda Brannon ace gave Plant a 2-0 lead, meaning the game and match were all but over. Plant reeled off six more points to gain an 8-0 lead before the Falcons could manage a point.

Down but still playing hard, Leto got an ace and a kill from Jennifer Roberson and an ace from Jenny Womble, but it was too little too late.

"We played a nice match," said Larkin, whose team opened the season with 16 consecutive victories. "I'm happy with the execution we had. We played consistent and pretty well I thought."

Johnson led Plant with five kills and two blocks while Jessica Smith had four kills and Taylor Russo had three aces.

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