LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lauren Owens is the type of player every winning team needs.
The Lakewood Ranch senior doesn't accumulate a lot of glory stats like kills and assists, but she does the other things that make winning possible.
The outside hitter showed her mettle with a team-high 13 digs to help spark the Lakewood Ranch volleyball team to a Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal round victory over visiting Seminole on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs (23-5) swept the match 25-22, 25-12, 25-21. Head coach Perri Hankins said her team played well enough to win, but praised Owens.
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"It wasn't our best match. They had one of the quickest middles we've ever seen, and we had some trouble with that," Hankins said. "Lauren Owens played real well for us. She got a lot of balls in the backcourt. She got a lot of digs to target and did very well with her passing. They hit a lot of off-speed stuff, and we had a hard time getting those balls up."
Lakewood Ranch was tied at 22 in the first game before running off the final three points. They dominated Seminole (19-11) in the
second game and overcame some problems in Game 3 to come back and put the match away.
"On the digs I just watch the hitter and watch her hands when she is hitting. I keep my eye on the ball the whole time and go for it," Owens said. "I know if I get out there I can get it so I don't hesitate. We did really well. We came out strong. This team is a lot different than last year. We are a lot younger. Last year we had a lot of juniors and seniors."
The Mustangs continued to get strong play out of their big hitters, senior Ashlyn Falahee and junior Nicole Grant, and senior setter Ali Milbourn.
Falahee finished with 18 kills and eight digs. Grant had 10 kills and four blocks, and Milbourn racked up 38 assists with four digs and two kills.
"We played well enough to win. We weren't really sharp. It's nice to have Ali back running the offense. She played a really good match," Hankins said. "We are right up to par with the team from last year (that went to the state final four). When we are playing well, we are really good. I think we can go as far as last year's team. I hope we save some for the next match."
The Mustangs racked up 43 kills. It took them awhile to get focused to be match, but they seemed to use the momentum at the end of the first game to break out to big early lead in the second game.
Lakewood Ranch, which won its first district and region volleyball titles last year, will be home Nov. 5 in a region semifinal match.
The Mustangs will face a familiar foe in district rival Sarasota. The Sailors pulled off a huge upset Tuesday night, defeating three-time defending district champion Clearwater 23-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-17, 15-9.