BRADENTON -- In winning its first region match in seven years, Manatee's volleyball team crafted a peculiar, albeit successful, blueprint.
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The Hurricanes swept past Tampa Wharton 3-0 in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal Tuesday for their first win in the region tournament since beating St. Petersburg Lakewood in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal in 2007.
Manatee (21-5) hosts Palm Harbor University on Tuesday in a semifinal match. It's a rematch of last week's District 8 final that Manatee won in three sets.
The Canes took an interesting route to the next round, falling behind 5-0 in Games 1 and 2 and rallying back from a 16-9 deficit in Game 3.
"This team, sometimes they have to flip the switch to turn it on. I tried to get them to turn it on early -- maybe they turned on during warmups and flipped it off during the start of the set," Manatee coach Tony Cothron said. "I think they're trying to give me a heart attack. ... It was a great win. I'm glad the girls stay focused."
Manatee didn't lead in the first sets before a hitting error gave the Canes a 22-21 lead. Jacqui Armer's kill sealed a 25-21 win.
Game 2 followed a similar script: Manatee took an 11-10 lead on a Wildcat service error and scored 14 of the next 20 points for a 25-16 final.
JoJo Coulter's run at the service line tied Game 3 at 16, and Jesse Durst's back-to-back aces helped produce a 25-19 win.
"We know they were a good team and we were nervous," said freshman Gabby Coulter, who finished with 17 assists and five aces. "But after a while, we got in the swing of it. ... We're good now.
"It was a great win."
Durst, who suffered an ankle injury running a half marathon over the weekend, had 11 digs.
"We decided nothing was going to hit the floor," she said.
JoJo Coulter finished with seven kills, as the two freshmen continued to fuel an offense that got 12 kills from the twins' older sister, Haley, and seven from Jacqui Armer.
"Those two have been in big games," Cothron said of Gabby and JoJo. "They're used to the moment. ... You can't say enough for having good freshmen."
Next up is Palm Harbor University, with the winner advancing to the Region 2 final scheduled for Nov. 8.
The District 8 teams know each other well, splitting two regular-season matches before Manatee won the district championship match last week in Bradenton.
"I'm really impressed with Set 1. We were down big time," Cothron said. "They fought and they wanted to win it."