LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The third time is a charm. The fourth time it just got the job done.
That's the attitude the host Lakewood Ranch volleyball took into its Class 7A-Region 3 semifinal match against Sarasota Tuesday night.
Lakewood Ranch had beaten the Sailors three times this season and defeating a good team a fourth time is not easy especially when the previous matches were close.
"Beating Sarasota is never easy. They are a very good team," Lakewood Ranch head coach Perri Hankins said. "It's hard to beat Sarasota (20-9) four times. They battle us every time. We knew we had to keep all the mental stuff out. We talked about that early in the week. Everything we said all week was about being positive and winning this match."
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It wasn't easy, but the Mustangs prevailed 25-15, 24-26, 29-27 and 25-18.
The Mustangs will try to qualify for their second straight trip to the state final four Saturday at home at 2 p.m. in a region final match against District 11 runner-up Naples Gulf Coast, which upset District 11 champion Fort Myers 3-2.
"The second game really got away from us. We
really thought we had it," Hankins said. "I thought our players kept playing to win. I didn't see them ever get into a play not to lose mode and they are going one point at a time. Last year's team was paving the road, and now we have that road paved, and it's easier for us to get into these matches."
The Mustangs got a big game out of junior Coleen Campbell who led the team with 17 kills. Ashlyn Falahee had 14 kills and 11 digs, and Nicole Grant had 11 kills.
"I usually don't lead the team in kills, but Ali (Milbourn) did a great job setting," Campbell said.
"I would say it's pretty tough to beat a team four times, but we really stuck together and proved we were a better team. It's really a mental thing."
Millbourn, who missed a good portion of the season, continued to play strong since her return and did a solid job of setting up her teammates with 40 assists as Lakewood Ranch (23-5) registered 41 kills.
Ande McDonald had 16 digs while Grant came up strong on the frontline with four blocks and registered two aces.
"It's really awesome to go back to the regional final. We are really excited," Falahee said. "The third time is hard to beat someone. I think the fourth time we were in the mindset that we can beat them again. After we lost the second game I mentally got down and kind of checked out a little bit. But then we wound up winning 29-27 thank goodness. This is a super mental game and my teammates brought me back."
"The third time is hard to beat someone. I think the fourth time we were in the mindset that we can beat them again."
In region tournament play, Naples Gulf Coast defeated two district champions on the road in five games each to reach the region championship match.